Tear gas and pepperballs deployed as violence ensued at Boulder block party

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BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — Boulder SWAT shot pepperballs and tear gas as rioters pelted officers with glass bottles, rocks and other objects hours after a block party turned violent, according to a release from the Boulder Police Department.

Calls began coming in about a large party on 10th Street between Pennsylvania and College avenues around 5 p.m., Boulder Police Department says.

BPD’s Neighborhood Impact Team officers responded to the area and attempted to break up the crowd. In less than an hour, the crowd grew and officers were being pelted with glass bottles, according to BPD.

SWAT was activated by BPD and requested from Boulder County, Longmont and Colorado State Patrol just before 6 p.m., officials report.

SWAT moved in at 8:22 p.m. and verbally commanded individuals to disperse from the unlawful assembly three times, BPD says.

Twenty minutes later, the SWAT armored vehicle was surrounded by the crowd and attacked with rocks and bottles. BPD reports at least three SWAT officers sustained minor injuries after being hit with rocks, bricks, bottles and other objects.

Officers shot pepperballs at the ground near the area where the rocks were coming from, BPD says. Two smoke canisters and one canister of tear gas were deployed as well. Due to wind direction, the effectiveness of the tear gas was reduced.

Authorities say the crowd was between 500 to 800 people and due to the size, SWAT was pulled out. The windshield was shattered as the armored vehicle left the area, and a loud siren was activated to clear a path out.

“It was a bit shocking to see it got this out of hand,” Jordi, who wanted to keep her last name anonymous said. “It’s extremely embarrassing and a little disappointing.”

CU sent out two alerts warning people of the situation and to avoid that area of the hill. The crowd finally dispersed around 9 p.m.

“The actions were dangerous, selfish and criminal,” Patrick O’Rourke, CU’s chief operating officer said. “Any student who joined in or refused to disburse will be held responsible. Some students will face criminal/civil actions.” 

During the course of events, cars were damaged by people jumping and banging on them, one was even flipped over. Several people jumped on a Boulder Fire Rescue truck that drove through the area and damaged it.

Boulder Fire Rescue truck, photo courtesy of BPD

“I don’t regard people flipping over a car as a party,” Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said, adding “I don’t regard people throwing bottles and rocks at firefighters and police officers as a party. Those are criminal acts and be treated as such.”

The City of Boulder released this statement regarding the incident:

The City of Boulder condemns the behavior of those who organized and attended the party and will seek the strictest consequences – legal, economic and when relevant, academic – for anyone who engaged in violence or destruction of property. We are grateful that the injured officers are recovering and that no one else was hurt in this dangerous situation.

The public health stakes of this type of a gathering are high and potentially dire, not just to partygoers, but also to neighbors and other community members. Public Health is advising anyone who participated or came into contact with participants to quarantine for at least 10 days and monitor symptoms for up to 14 days. People should take advantage of  free testing seven days following the exposure event, but please understand that a negative test before 14 days is not a guarantee there was no transmission. The university also offers testing.

The city wishes to make clear that a gathering of this size, even absent a pandemic, would not be permitted in a residential neighborhood. All residents of University Hill, including students, have a right to quiet enjoyment of their homes and of shared streets and outdoor spaces. This conduct was not consistent with that expectation. Later this afternoon, the police department will issue a detailed timeline of the incident, as well as information about its response at each phase.

We took initial steps to disperse this gathering with as little force as possible. When it became clear, however, that participants were not responding, we realized we needed to communicate our expectations more strongly. We took a graduated SWAT approach, leveraging best practices for de-escalating disturbances.

The responsibility for non-compliance rests fully on those who participated in violence and property destruction, as well as those who chose simply to stay and observe. The police department, public health and the university are fully united in our response to this situation and will work together to ensure there are consequences for all those identified.

Chief Herold has already communicated with District Attorney Michael Dougherty, who has agreed that aggressive prosecution and penalties are appropriate. 

Anyone with information and/or photos or video is asked to contact police by visiting the following website: https://tinyurl.com/UniversityHillDisturbance

While we will accept anonymous tips, it is helpful if tipsters provide contact information for call backs from investigators.

Several outside agencies responded at Boulder Police’s request, including the county and Colorado State Patrol, and the city is appreciative of this support. The university, at the city’s request, sent out a text alert using its emergency notification system, which appeared to have a positive impact. The city believes this kind of coordination is essential and is committed to continuing to collaborate with partners proactively to prevent additional gatherings.

We had already been planning for a coordinated approach with partners in connection with St. Patrick’s Day and Spring Break. What occurred last night underscores the importance of pro-active strategies. These include, but are not limited to, statements and code of conduct consequences from the university; nuisance and civil abatements that result in action taken against property owners; misdemeanor and when appropriate, felony, charges. 

BPD asks anyone with information to contact the Boulder Police tipline (303) 441-1974 or the Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Tips may also be submitted through the Crime Stoppers website at crimeshurt.com. Any video or photos of the incident can be submitted through a site BPD has set up.

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