JMU students charged in Village Lane riot

Alex Sirney -- April 13th, 2010

The Harrisonburg Police Department release 15 names of those charged from incidents related to Saturday’s civil disturbance Wednesday. The list includes eight that appear in the JMU People listings, one of whom was charged with assault on a police officer and participating in a riot with a deadly weapon.

This release brings the total of those identified as being charged for incidents connected to the disturbance to 27, and it identifies people potentially connected to JMU for the first time.

Of the 27, 19 have been charged with relatively minor charges including profane swearing or intoxication, open container violations, and failure to leave an unlawful assembly. Of the remaining eight, six have been charged with the more serious assault or battery by mob and malicious wounding by mob, one has been charged with felonious assault and two counts of possession of marijuana and one has been charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, participate in a riot with a dangerous weapon, failing to leave from an unlawful assembly and profane swearing or intoxication.

Candace Avalos, president of JMU’s Student Government Association, apologized to council and Harrisonburg Tuesday night.

“I’m here tonight to apologize,” she said during open time during the city council meeting.

“We’re sorry we hurt our relationship with the community.”

“I regret that our students poorly represented themselves, our university and the Harrisonburg community.”

Avalos’s apology came during the time members of the community can speak directly to council and before council heard a report from HPD Chief Col. D.G. Harper about the incident, which had been added as an additional agenda item.

Harper confirmed the sequence of events from Saturday’s civil disturbance and provided details in addition to those provided at Monday’s press conference on participating agencies, arrests and injuries.

Harper said 31 individuals were taken into custody, with the most severe charges being assault and battery by mob and malicious wounding by mob. An additional 25 summons were issued to individuals at the scene.

Harper said five officers and one K9 were injured, none seriously, and Rockingham Memorial Hospital treated approximately 40 individuals from the Village Lane area. He confirmed that three people were transported to the University of Virginia Medical Center.

Mayor Degner in council

Mayor Kai Degner thanked Harper and the HPD, and, after acknowledging Avalos’s apology, Degner called on JMU to discipline students found to be responsible.

“I invite President Rose to excuse those students [who assaulted officers] from JMU and our community,” he said.

His comments Tuesday follow his initial statements on Sunday. The investigation into the incident is ongoing, and the city manager’s office is working with the HPD to produce an after-action report.

When asked after the meeting about how the community can be brought together, Avalos said that she felt that everything was still in a “conversational phase.”

“A lot of what is going to come out of this are things that we’re wanted for a long time,” she said. “We’ve wanted to build bridges to the community.”

She will graduate this year, but plans on meeting with local leaders and helping to organize a large community service push before students leave for the summer.

“The biggest thing is to come out strong,” she said. “We’re making community service armies.”

“Long term goals need to be set now.”

Picture from file.

[UPDATE: Added link to press conference story on hburgnews.]
[UPDATE: Added new arrest information and link to Degner and Rose’s comments.]

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40 Responses to “JMU students charged in Village Lane riot”

  1. Emmy says:

    I agree. Anyone who assaulted an officer needs to be on their way out of town or if they are from here, out of JMU.

  2. Jessica says:

    Ms. Avalos is a great representative of JMU who genuinely cares about JMU and the Harrisonburg community. I applaud her for standing up tonight!

    Assaulting officers is absolutely unacceptable, however I would like to point out several issues that continue to bother me three days after the block party:

    1. Springfest/block party has been occurring for years. Facebook has been blamed this year for the onslaught of people. This event was circulated on Facebook for at least a month, so combined with the knowledge that this is an annual event, where were the police officers? I am not the first to point out that in the past, the police have been an obvious and constant presence at block parties. Everyone knows that as long as you are not being dangerous or obnoxious and stay off the sidewalks, you will be okay. Yes, I acknowledge that there was underage drinking, however this IS a college and there’s no way to avoid it. We all heard rumors about undercover officers and ABC officers who would be ID’ing people and being much more strict about open container laws, which is fine by me. However…again I ask, where were they? How could law enforcement, who knew about the events Friday, and knew about the events Saturday, not maintain their usual presence and ALLOW 8,000 people to assemble? They should have been there since 10-11am when people started partying, ID’ing people and being a steady presence, instead of waiting for the property owner to call, come all at once and expect such a massive crowd to disperse immediately. I should also note that those who were able to receive the messages to disperse should have been respectful and move. I also hope that the rumor, that people who were trying to leave couldn’t because both ends of Forest Hills were blocked, is cleared up because that is ridiculous.

    2. From the whsv site (, “Five men from Northern Virginia, none of whom are James Madison University students, are being held in jail without bond.” Seriously? If it is true that these men are charged with felonies and are NOT associated with JMU, should it not be at least acknowledged that out of the 30-something people who were arrested, the most serious crimes were committed by people not affiliated with JMU. Non-JMU students include Harrisonburg residents, students from other schools, and college-aged adults from out of town. I can guarantee NONE of these people care about the JMU reputation because what do they have to lose? I am not saying that JMU students were not involved, however it must be acknowledged that what happened Saturday is very atypical of JMU students and certainly not a representation of JMU as a whole. I have been following comments made on news reports closely and I’m angered to see so much arrogance and ignorance on both sides.

    JMU and Harrisonburg need to have a symbiotic relationship, because neither is going anywhere soon. We need to get ride of the “side” mentality and work together as a whole.

    • Jeremy Aldrich says:

      Both WHSV and DNR advertised Saturday’s party before it happened. Blaming Facebook seems like an odd strategy.

      Even more strange, both of these preview stories focused on how the police planned to have a strong presence at the event, which apparently was not the case.

  3. Jessica says:

    Furthermore, I think it would be a wonderful idea for JMU to hold some sort of spring festival on JMU property – like the new stadium, or even just close off one of the parking lots, so IDs can be checked and people can have fun in a safe, controlled area. Not only do I think it will keep residents of Harrisonburg happy (of which I am also, since I am a JMU student and Harrisonburg homeowner), it will enable students who want to have fun without alcohol a great alternative.

    Also, I don’t know the legality of this idea, but what about following what beer tastings do? Allow those of age to buy “drink tickets,” have a wristband on, and therefore they can still choose to indulge in safe drinking practices if they want. If annual events like Shamrockfest can be successful, I’m sure a community of higher education, like JMU, can take a few pages out of that book.

    I welcome responses and other comments, but please keep them intellectual because I’m sure we are all capable of such!

    Still and forever proud to be a JMU Duke!

    • Renee says:

      I agree and had also mentioned to a friend that a JMU-sponsored non-alcoholic Springfest event would be great!

    • Amy says:

      wow, you must be dreaming if you think that’s going to happen. Even liberty doesn’t have a dry campus sooo…good luck trying to get our school to do that.

  4. Alex Sirney says:

    Jessica –

    Many answers to your questions can be found here:

    where we report that none of the names known from the arrests came up on JMU People and that the HPD says they maintained a presence similar to what they had at prior “Springfest” block parties, but that attendance at this one exceeded those parties by at least 6,000.

    I’ve updated the article above to include that link and I apologize for the oversight.

  5. Tad says:

    Jessica please answer this question for me: Who is responsible for your behavior? Facebook, non-JMU students, police, wanting to blow off steam, this happens at all colleges etc., etc. is what I have listened to and read these past couple of days as reasons why this happened. The bottom line is that personal responsibility is what failed here. There was no act of God that caused the party to esculate out of control. The police did not make people throw bottles at them or set dumpsters on fire. Those things happened because individuals made choices. JMU students made the choice to have an open party where anyone and their brother and sister could get into with no control over alcohol consumption or personal behavior. I know it seems that everyone is blaming all JMU students for what happened at Springfest, but it was a JMU student party that was widely advertised. Most JMU students are responsible people and assets to the community (i.e. Blacks Run Cleanup day), but the facts point to this being a black eye for the university. Just for full disclosure purposes, I am responsible for my own behavior.

  6. Totally chaotic event planning. An invite broadcast to the entire f’ing universe. No access control by party planners. Hoping/wishing/praying that the po-po would keep you safe? A party with 8,000 of your best friends AND the police – wow you kids really know how to have fun! Please.

    The police calls were off the charts, and the drunken rabble pushed them back. Injured people were in need of treatment. Fellow students were besieged in their own apts. The outcome was inevitable.

    And now you want JMU to run your parties? Pantywaists!

    Go rent a pasture, pay for an ABC permit, assemble a group of student volunteer doormen and rock on in the beautiful Shen Valley. Show the community that you know how to take care of some simple shit before the community trusts you to walk and chew gum. Pretty soon you are going to be in charge and we really want to know you can handle it.

    P.S. Thanks Candace, we love you too.

  7. Brad says:

    Kudos to the SGA president and the Harrisonburg mayor for constructive comments and strong leadership.

  8. Lilly says:


    I understand your point that it would have been helpful for the police to have been at the party much earlier. However, the police are responsible for the entire city of Harrisonburg not just a row of student housing. It angers me that the party got so out of control that the police had to be called at all….those are our tax dollars paying for adults to be babysat.

    I like your idea about JMU actually hosting the event. This would allow them to monitor who is coming into the party and make sure that underage drinking does not occur. I appreciate the fact that you are trying to come up with alternative so that this type of craziness doesn’t happen again.

  9. Leo says:

    even our parties must be micromanaged by bureaucrats in order to suppress the very possibility of social unrest.
    totalitarianism anyone?
    also the “community” the SGA president apologized to, clearly does not include the young working class people and immigrants who have to deal with police violence everyday,and fill the local jail where they are starved and tortured.

    • Deb SF says:

      Micromanage? Really? On the part of the cops? How about some plain old macro-managing on your part first?

      Like figuring out how to have bathrooms available for 8,000 people who are dedicating their afternoon to drinking alcohol? Or ways to manage the crowd yourselves so that medical personnel can reach people who, like, break bones? (referencing the details from the chief’s report last night, where responders couldn’t get through the crowd to get to a person with a broken leg – friends of the patient had to carry him through the crowd to treatment)

    • Leo,

      Gag. Are you a sock puppet of Rocktown Rebel or just one of his buddies? Look, young working class people and immigrants also pay local taxes, if indirectly through the rents to their landlords. This means that they are also paying the bill for all this police overtime, including if they live in some neighboring jurisdictions, given how many police from neighboring jurisdictions needed to be called in.

      And again, public drunkenness, bottle throwing, and so on at a supposedly apolitical social gathering is not a form of “social unrest” worthy of any sort of defense by anybody who is making claims of political seriousness of any sort. This is just pathetic.

    • eso says:


      As a Southern Police officer once explained to a friend of mine, “Son, You don’t understand the gravity of your situation.”

      I have a house near that area. I was over working on it that afternoon. It was far enough that I didn’t know there was a disturbance building, just saw a bunch of drunk idiots walking the road when I was leaving.

      First off, “low income” residents have the most to loose with much of their income tied up in houses that can be damaged and are most likely to be under-insured.

      Secondly, if you try to break into a house while my family is there – no matter who you are, no matter for whatever reason – you better hope to God the police can get their fast with no traffic obstruction. Because I will use whatever force necessary to protect them. Get it?

      • Danny says:

        “…if you try to break into a house while my family is there – no matter who you are, no matter for whatever reason – you better hope to God the police can get their fast with no traffic obstruction. Because I will use whatever force necessary to protect them. Get it?…”

        Well said.

      • Amy says:

        Um, you spelt “loose” wrong…its “lose”. HOLLA!

  10. JGFitzgerald says:

    Would somebody like to check my math? 155 out-of-town officers, ten hours or so, rough estimate of $50 per hour for overtime, transportation, chemicals: $77,500 before you count city officers’ overtime, firefighters, and EMTs. Shall we round it to $100,000 and add in incidental costs later?

  11. Leo says:

    no I am not a sockpuppet of the Rebel, it may shock you but the views he/she expounds are great deal more common then you might think.
    “Look, young working class people and immigrants also pay local taxes, if indirectly through the rents to their landlords. This means that they are also paying the bill for all this police overtime, including if they live in some neighboring jurisdictions, given how many police from neighboring jurisdictions needed to be called in.”
    yes and slaves paid contributions to the slave patrols of free whites in the ante-bellum South albeit indirectly through their owners, thus when someone escaped and had to be tracked down it was a burden on all their fellow slaves.
    “And again, public drunkenness, bottle throwing, and so on at a supposedly apolitical social gathering is not a form of “social unrest” worthy of any sort of defense by anybody who is making claims of political seriousness of any sort. This is just pathetic.”
    no what is political here is the police attacking a public gathering with a great deal of brutality in order to reimpose ruling class control over public space under the cynical cover of “public safety”.
    I think you are choosing not to understand my position.

    • Leo,

      Well, maybe there are lots of people out there who agree with you and Rocktown Rebel that the lawns of privately owned apartment complexes are “public space.” Sorry, but I doubt it, and it certainly is not legally so. Do you really wish to argue that anybody who wants to party hard has the right to go into anybody’s yard they want and vomit, defecate, pee, throw bottles, start fires in dumpsters, aattempt to enter the buildings to use toilets, blockade the doors so that inhabitants are terrified, and so on and on? If so, you are just making a very serious fool of yourself.

  12. Leo says:

    re JGFitzgerald:
    I wonder what the math would be on the golf course,that magnificent example of crony capitalism?

  13. Emmy says:

    I understand that the majority of the people in attendance and the majority of those arrested were not JMU students.

    But, if I have a party at my house and it gets out of control who will the cops come to and who will be held responsible for the party? I WILL!!!

    If you don’t want your parties to become out of control disasters then do something to control them from the very beginning!!

    • eso says:


      The majority of those arrested were not JMU students. The majority of those who did not leave and caused problems may have non-JMU students.
      But, no way was the majority of those who attended throughout the day non-JMU students. The party was hosted by JMU students for JMU students. There is no way you would have gotten that many outsiders in. I was on Port Road that day and saw them walking, stumbling, and being half way carried down from student complexes to that area.

      • Amy says:

        Why are you making excuses up for our school? Don’t you realize that you’re just making me and all of your fellow students look even worse in the media than we already do? Seriously, grow up.

        • eso says:

          Perhaps you need to read more carefully. Emmy said the majority of party goes were non-JMU students. I had been in the area that day and disagree.

          I’m not trying to defend JMU. It’s clear to me that the majority (50.1% plus) of that party _was_ JMU and I’m not going to let them off the hook by saying it was largely or majority outsiders present that day.

  14. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    I’m having a hard time reconciling the mugshots in the paper today with the photos and videos I saw of people throwing things at police. The mugshots seem much browner. Anyone else notice that?

  15. Brooke says:

    Here you go, Emmy:

    The photos are different because the WHSV article/photos include the people charged with lesser offenses. The DNR article just showed the guys charged with felonies.

    There are also more names in the actual article.

  16. Brooke says:

    Went over the names listed in the WHSV article, and of the 21 listed, only 8 were listed in the JMU directory. None of those listed as charged with assault were students at JMU.

  17. BANDIT says:

    Does anyone have an update on where things stand as far as the Commonwealths Attorney, JMU and the third party holding the photographs?

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