Police fire tear gas at college students after snow day party descends into 'riot'

'Students got a little too jovial and I’m afraid got carried away,' says mayor

Peter Stubley
Saturday 02 February 2019 16:18 GMT
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Riot police battle college students who get carried away during snowball fight

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Police used pepper ball guns, tear gas and smoke grenades on college students enjoying a “snow day” party.

Hundreds of youths had gathered in the street near the campus of West Virginia University after classes on Friday were cancelled because of the weather.

Officials said it turned into a riot after the students ignored an order to disperse and started hurling glass bottles and other debris.

Video footage shows police responding by firing smoke canisters and air guns loaded with paintballs containing pepper spray or powder.

“West Virginia is an all out war right now,” read the caption on a video of the confrontation posted on Twitter by Barstool Sports.

One student said he was hit in the face. “The police wanna come up and I’m just standing on the porch and next thing I know I just get shot by them,” Zachary Haines said.

WVU Police chief William Chedester defended the use of air guns, telling the local MetroNews it was “a riot situation.”

The university issued a statement asking students to “behave responsibly, be accountable and please comply with police, who want to keep our campus, city and all of our first responders safe through this weather.”

It added: “It is unfortunate that what began today on Spruce Street as a playful time in the snow, turned into a dangerous and threatening situation for students and law enforcement officers alike.

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“The escalation apparently began when the several hundred students and others who had gathered refused reasonable instructions to disperse and began tossing glass bottles and other debris toward officers, resulting in law enforcement taking action.

“University officials will review videos of the situation to determine if any charges should be filed.”

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