Police departments reflect on riot, wrap up busy week of arrests

Police work on trying to control the crowd on Welch Avenue after a large crowd flipped a car over April 8. 

Makayla Tendall

Between Veishea and Tuesday’s riot, the Ames and ISU police departments kept busy this week despite the fact that official Veishea events were canceled.

Ames Police arrested 82 people on 115 charges throughout the week and cited 56 people. ISU Police filed 155 criminal charges from Tuesday to Sunday morning. Alcohol-related charges were the most common offenses.

Jerry Stewart, director of Iowa State’s department of public safety, said the number of charges was slightly less than the two previous years, while Geoff Huff, investigations commander for Ames Police, said they had a busier week than expected.

“It’s hard to say, because in the past we haven’t done a lot of tracking that early in the week. Usually when we track stats for Veishea, it’s usually Friday and Saturday, but this year it was clearly a different situation,” Huff said. “It was the first nice weekend and Veishea at the same time — the perfect storm.”

Both departments must deal with the aftermath of Tuesday’s riot, during which some police officers were hit with beer bottles and cans thrown by the crowd before individuals took down street signs and two light poles on Welch Avenue.

“Every single person in that area going along with it was making the situation worse, and if you watch those videos, that’s what it was. Everybody looked like they were having a great time,” Huff said.

Huff said they have already charged eight people involved in Tuesday’s riot by using picture and video obtained to identify individuals involved in destructing property or acting aggressively.

“One kid actually brought the Daily into me the other day. He pointed at the picture on the front page and said, ‘That’s me,’” Huff said.

Huff said the individual was then cited and released instead of physically arrested. The Ames Police Department will continue to charge those identified through the many tips the department is receiving.

Both departments’ tactic of not actively engaging with the crowd Tuesday helped to not escalate the situation, but they had plans in place in case the situation got any more out of control.

“With the crowd size we had and the number of officers we had available, there wasn’t a situation where we were going to go in there and start grabbing people and making mass arrests,” Huff said. “We were continually talking to people about, ‘Hey, this is silly. Why don’t you go home, why don’t you take people with you?’’’

However, Huff said that when the student was injured, police had a team of officers in full riot gear with chemical sprays ready to stop the crowd, but they found it was not necessary.

“We could kind of feel the crowd slow down a little bit,” Huff said. “We just talked to them calmly and said, ‘We don’t need any more of this. We’ve already had a serious injury, and you just being here is part of the problem.’”

The list of arrestees for Tuesday’s riot and throughout the week will be turned over to the Dean of Students who will determine whether or not arrestees are students and how to proceed if they are.

“We know that usually during Veishea, from what we hear from Iowa State, a lot of the people that get arrested from Veishea are not students,” Huff said. “They’re the people that come from out of town. Clearly, Tuesday night was not the same kind of thing.”

After Tuesday’s riot and the cancellation of Veishea, police began breaking up smaller gatherings along with the larger house parties. Huff said Wednesday night was one of the busiest nights, along with Friday night. He believes the nice weather played a part in the fact that people wanted to be out and enjoying it.

“This weekend we got a pretty good feeling that there were a lot of people that came in from out of town even though there were no official events going on, which is too bad because really they were coming into town for no good,” Huff said.

Friday night, Huff said the department was bombarded with calls and incidents to respond to — besides the usual alcohol offenses — including a woman who became trapped in College Creek behind the Intermodal Facility and a man who got into an physical fight, later finding a cut on his leg that required a hospital visit.

“What will happen this week is we’ll start taking cases that officers were referred to as investigations. The next couple of days we’ll see how many follow-up investigations need to be done,” Huff said.

Both ISU and Ames Police were engaging with students and visitors through social media, and Huff said he believes this helped everyone understand what the departments were doing.

“We got a lot of support through it and I think it probably did help a little bit keeping everyone calmed down,” Huff said. “We talked to so many people that thanked us for our services. Some of the people apologized not necessarily for their behavior but for in general what happened Tuesday night.

“Clearly there were more people unhappy about what happened Tuesday night than who were out there.”