Police Break Up Massive Party Near CU Boulder Campus

Authorities estimate that nearly 800 people attended the CU Boulder party. Responding officers were injured and vehicles were damaged.

Police Break Up Massive Party Near CU Boulder Campus

Photo via Adobe, by Tomasz Zajda

CORRECTION MARCH 9: The party took place in the neighborhood called “University Hill” in the city of Boulder near the CU Boulder campus, not on the campus itself.

Boulder, Colorado – A party on the University of Colorado (CU) – Boulder campus had nearly 800 people in attendance on Saturday night, with many not wearing masks or following COVID-19 regulations.

The party was not only a coronavirus super spreader event, it also became violent, reports Complex. College-age attendees packed the street, set off fireworks and flipped over a car, reports the Denver Post.

At about 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, a few SWAT officers arrived and told the crowd to disperse, warning the party-goers that they might be arrested, tear gassed or face use of force. This prompted many to disperse, but some refused to leave. Officers at the scene deployed pepperball and then two canisters of smoke and one canister of CS Tear Gas.

At least three of the responding officers were struck with bottles, bricks and rocks and sustained minor injuries. The SWAT truck and a firetruck sustained “heavy damage.”

In response, CU Boulder condemned the behavior and threated to sanction and even expel the students who participated in the violence.

CU Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano issued the following statement:

Last night, hundreds of unmasked students flooded the University Hill neighborhood as part of a large party. Reports and social media posts show some of those in attendance threw bottles and rocks at first responders and police officers, tipped over a car and damaged vehicles.

To the students who participated in the incident last night: you have embarrassed yourselves and the entire University of Colorado Boulder. Your actions violated university and community standards at every level. A basic condition for being part of CU Boulder is accountability to each other and to the community at all times. We have stated in clear terms that students must comply with community safety standards and public health orders and protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic––and most of our students have done so. The pandemic is not over and violating public health orders puts our entire community at risk.

  • We have consulted with our public health experts, and anyone who attended the Hill gathering is advised to quarantine immediately and complete a COVID-19 monitoring test on Thursday or Friday. Students will not be punished for completing a monitoring test. Monitoring testing information is not shared with Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution.
  • We anticipate that faculty will continue to hold in-person classes this week, and we will continue to monitor COVID-19 cases and communicate any operational changes as necessary. We do understand that some faculty and students may be concerned about exposure risks in the aftermath of the Hill incident. Faculty should consult with their chairs and deans regarding any temporary alterations in instructional plans. Students should communicate directly with their instructors. Staff should continue their normal work schedule, as originally planned.
  • Any student who is found to have violated current health orders or who refused to disperse when asked by law enforcement is subject to disciplinary action by the university. 

Even if we were not in a pandemic, an out of control party of this size and nature would have required a police response. Shamefully, some of our students engaged in acts of violence toward law enforcement and other officials who responded to the area. This is an affront to our campus and our community. 

  • Any student who is found responsible for engagement in acts of violence or other egregious acts connected to the events––including damage to property and not dispersing when ordered by police––will face serious sanctions up to expulsion from CU Boulder without the possibility of readmission, and may also face criminal and civil sanctions from the city and the county. Anyone with information to assist in the investigations now taking place can submit leads to Boulder Police Department.  

Those who demonstrate through their conduct that they cannot meet our expectations are not welcome at our university.

To our University Hill neighbors, please know that we are sorry this occurred and will hold the responsible students accountable. To Boulder and university police and emergency personnel who responded, thank you.

To our students, faculty and staff who participated with our University Hill neighbors in the cleanup of the areas impacted by the incident last night, thank you for showing the best of our CU and Boulder communities working together.

We are still in the midst of a pandemic, let’s not endanger our ourselves and each other by taking unnecessary risks and engaging in selfish behaviors. Please continue to follow public health orders and act as responsible citizens. We need to be better than this and we are.

We will share regular updates this week on the progress of our investigations and the actions we are taking to hold those responsible for last night’s unacceptable behavior fully accountable.

Additionally, Boulder police said they were reviewing all body-worn camera footage and social media video and photos to identify those responsible for damaging property and assaulting first responders.

Boulder police released the following timeline of the events of Saturday:

  • At approximately 1:30 p.m., Boulder Police Code Enforcement began responding to residences on 12 th and 13 th streets for reports of parties being held and issued warnings for violations of the public health order. These individuals were receptive to the notices and separate from the disturbance that occurred later Saturday evening.
  • Just before 5 p.m., Boulder Police Dispatch began receiving calls about a large party on 10th Street between Pennsylvania and College. Officers from BPD’s Neighborhood Impact Team, which regularly patrols that neighborhood, responded to the area and attempted to disperse the gathering.
  • At approximately 5:40 p.m., the crowd swelled and individuals began pelting the officers with glass bottles.
  • At approximately 5:48 p.m., BPD’s SWAT was activated. SWAT from Boulder County, Longmont and Colorado State Patrol were requested later in the evening for additional assistance.
  • During this time, officers stood up an incident command post and deployed plainclothes officers to monitor the situation.
  • At 8:01 p.m. CU Boulder sent out an alert about the disturbance.
  • At approximately 8:22 p.m., SWAT officers returned to the area of 10th and College and made announcements to disperse the unlawful assembly due to the conditions.  These announcements were made three times.
  • At 8:42 p.m., there were reports that large groups of students were moving back toward campus.
  • At the time officers with the armored rescue vehicle were making these announcements, individuals surrounded the vehicle and both officers and the vehicle were pelted repeatedly with rocks and bottles.  At least three SWAT officers were struck with rocks, some of them approximately the size of a softball. 
  • Officers on scene then deployed pepperball projectiles directed at the ground around those causing harm. These officers also deployed two canisters of smoke and one canister of CS Tear Gas. Due to a change in wind direction, the effects of the gas on the crowd were greatly diminished.
  • Due to the sheer number of rioters, which numbered between 500 to 800 people, the decision was made to pull the officers out of the immediate area and observe crowd actions. The windshield to the armored vehicle was shattered during this time. 
  • Officers then used a toned warble noise from the Long Range Acoustical Device to clear the crowd from in front of the vehicle in order to leave the area.
  • At 9:13 p.m., CU Boulder sent out a second alert asking individuals to avoid the Hill area until further notice due to the disturbance, saying people in the area could be subject to arrest and CU sanctions.”
  • Between 8:45 and 9 p.m., the crowd finally began to disperse.

To view photos of the damages to first responder vehicles, click here.


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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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