HPD investigation moves forward

Alex Sirney -- April 12th, 2010

police restrain man at block partyHarrisonburg Police are continuing their investigation into Saturday’s civil disturbance in the Village Lane area during the “Springfest” block party representatives said in a press conference Monday.

At the press conference Monday afternoon, Lt. Kurt Boshart, commander of the Criminal Investigation Division of the HPD, Sgt. Les Tyler, public information officer for the Virginia State Police and Mary-Hope Vaas of the HPD with Mayor Kai Degner clarified both the sequence of events and the status of the investigation.

The HPD and other law enforcement agencies who were mobilized in response to the hostile block party crowd Saturday evening are still compiling data, but arrest reports from the HPD indicate at least 17 arrests made for incidents police say are directly related to the disturbance, as well as five arrests for “Assault or Battery by Mob” and “Malicious Wounding by Mob.” These numbers do not include arrests made by other agencies. None of the five names provided by the HPD or the five arrested for the charges listed came up on searches on JMU People.

Police expect more charges to follow, and are analyzing videos and pictures posted online as part of the investigation. Online videos depict crowd members, some of whom can be identified, throwing bottles and cups at officers in both standard uniforms and later in riot gear (note that links may contain offensive language, violence and partial nudity). No officers were seriously injured, but three individuals believed to have been involved in the disturbance were taken to the University of Virginia Medical Center with injuries believed to be serious.

Boshart confirmed that many of the 8,000 person crowd were not from the area.

“One of the things we found out there is that an enormous number fo people had no tie to Harrisonburg,” he said. The crowd contained at least 6,000 people more than Boshart said are typically at Springfest.

Boshart avoided commenting on whether the HPD expected a higher number of people as a result of online promotion of the party through Facebook or Twitter, or on whether the numbers of attendees exceeded HPD expectations, saying only that they were looking at how they would handle social networking promotion in future events.

Boshart did say that block party events are events the HPD plans ahead for and said initial police presence at the block party was comparable to previous years. The location change for this block party – originally scheduled for Fox Hills on Devon Lane until property owners prevented it – affected the HPD’s tactics, though he appeared to feel it did not significantly change the HPD’s ability to respond.

Degner expressed his belief that the HPD handled the situation well.

“I’m here today to show support for the police department… and express gratitude for the way they handled the situation,” Degner said. He has been criticized for not supporting the HPD after comments made to hburgnews.

Boshart said, “I feel confident that he supports the police department and what we’re doing.”

Degner plans to work with the police department and the city council’s city-JMU liaison committee, though he has not spoken directly with JMU President Linwood Rose yet, he said. He referred to the steps taken after the Forest Hills incident in 2000 as “constructive” and pointed out that talking about “next time” means preventing any recurrence.

“We will take the best of how we dealt with it last time,” he said. “[Our goal] is to move forward in a way so that it never happens again.”

Picture taken from YouTube video by bryantnotjordan.

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5 Responses to “HPD investigation moves forward”

  1. Alex Sirney says:

    The Washington Post has a blog entry from the reporter they sent to the press conference this afternoon:

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/campus-overload/2010/04/james_madison_block_party_turn.html

  2. Renee says:

    Thanks for the info about whether the people arrested were from JMU. Great reporting in all of your articles on this topic, Alex!

  3. Deb SF says:

    Tuesday 4/13 Washington Post story on the riot (and the comments are something to behold):

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/12/AR2010041204291.html

  4. David Miller says:

    Am I correctly reading that no arrests involved JMU students?

    • Alex Sirney says:

      As of now, no arrests can be confirmed to have involved JMU students. They’re still compiling this information and I haven’t seen the full list of all 31 people arrested by the different agencies, or the 25 people cited at the scene.

      Of the names I have seen that were involved, none were listed on JMU People.

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