BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) - A large party grew out of control on University Hill in Boulder Saturday night. Boulder police responded to find between 500 and 800 people gathered closely near 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.
Boulder Police SWAT team members responded to help disperse the crowd. While some people left, others stayed. Officers then used tear gas on the crowd and a siren to break up the rest of the crowd.
The group grew violent toward police and other first responders. Boulder police says officers were hit with bottles and rocks and a fire truck sustained damage.
Police officials say one officer avoided serious injury after being hit in the face with some kind of blunt object. The officer was wearing a gas mask which took the brunt of the force.
Three other officers suffered minor injuries.
Maris Herold, the Boulder Police chief, says a SWAT vehicle suffered "thousands and thousands and thousands" of dollars worth of damage.
No other less lethal tactics were used, Herold said. She added she believes officers made the right decision in not using other tactics as an effort to not further agitate the crowd.
"Numerous community member vehicles were also damaged, including one that was flipped over by the mob and one struck with objects as it attempted to drive south on 10th Street. Many other vehicles were jumped on and damaged by the crowd," said the city in a news release.
The city says a fire truck sustained damage while driving through the area, and some jumped on the back of the truck as it was moving.
Herold says officers first responded to the area for calls about health code violations at around 3:30 p.m. She adds those groups were cooperative.
Officers later returned at around 5 p.m. and crowds started to grow substantially at around 5:40 p.m. SWAT team members were then activated at around 5:50 p.m., but did not respond until after 8 p.m.
One unidentified man spoke to CBS4 saying the restrictions of COVID-19 caused the violence.
"When we're all caged up for months there's going to be an explosion, and this was the explosion," the man said.
Police say they are reviewing all body worn camera video and will work to find those responsible. Police say no arrests have been made so far.
CU Boulder officials say those found responsible could face expulsion from the university and will not be allowed back.
"We want to be clear to our students who continue to demonstrate through their conduct that if they can't meet our expectations, they are not welcome at the university," said Pat O'Rourke, Chief Operating Officer of Strategic Resources and Support at the university.
The crowd was completely dispersed at around 9 p.m., but the streets were left covered with trash and debris. It prompted many people, some from as far away as Highlands Ranch, to pick up the mess left behind.
"People were like trashing houses and flipping cars like this one right here. I think it's kind of like, you're acting like you're throwing a fit. You're acting like a child," said one volunteer.
The university shared a statement about the events saying students involved in the violence might not be allowed to return to the school:
"We are aware of a large party on University Hill on Saturday evening and allegations of violence toward police officers responding to the scene. We condemn this conduct. It is unacceptable and irresponsible, particularly in light of the volume of training, communication and enforcement the campus and city have dedicated to ensuring compliance with COVID-19 public health orders. CU Boulder will not tolerate any of our students engaging in acts of violence or damaging property.
CU Boulder has made it clear to our student body that following county public health orders is required under the student code of conduct. The vast majority of our students have followed these directives. When health officials and police have referred public health order violations to our student conduct office, CU Boulder has responded quickly and imposed discipline when violations were established. Disciplinary actions include interim exclusions from campus and 45 suspensions so far this academic year. We will continue to take these actions to make clear that protecting our community and our campus is of utmost importance and that we will not tolerate such violations. Any student who is found responsible for having engaged in acts of violence toward the law enforcement or other first responders will be removed from CU Boulder and not readmitted.
We appreciate the efforts of law enforcement to address the unacceptable conduct of these students and apologize to the residents of University Hill for their behavior."
The university is also urging anyone who went to the party to quarantine for 10 days. School officials say they plan to continue in-person learning this week.
The 20th Judicial District Attorney's Office responded saying the students' conduct was shameful:
"Our community was put at risk last night by the individuals involved in the incident in the Hill area. Their callous disregard for our community's safety and well-being is shameful. There is no excuse for this conduct, especially while the people of this community endure the pandemic. The District Attorney's Office will work closely with the Boulder Police Department to determine the identities of the people who damaged private property and assaulted first responders because they should be held fully responsible for their outrageous actions," said DA Michael Dougherty.
In a news conference on Sunday, Dougherty said he was horrified by the "selfish, dangerous and criminal" actions on Saturday. He strongly encouraged people to own up to their actions and come forward if they were involved in the violence.
CU Boulder students returned to in-person learning on Feb. 15.
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