- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2004

University of Maryland students will face criminal charges and expulsion if they are identified on videotapes setting fires or destroying property during celebrations after the men’s basketball team win Sunday, school and police officials said yesterday.

Officials are reviewing video of the rowdy celebrations, which shut down a section of Route 1 late Sunday for 30 minutes after the team defeated heavily favored Duke University to win the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship for the first time in 20 years.

A crowd of several hundred persons swarmed downtown College Park after the game, setting two small fires in the road, causing minor property damage and tearing down street signs.

The 70 police officers who responded in riot gear made no arrests, but a university spokesman said the investigation continues.

“If we can identify students in pictures, we will turn over [the investigation] to Prince George’s police and ask them to prosecute,” said George Cathcart, a university spokesman. “If that happens, we’ll be in a position to take action as well. It can be expulsion. It would depend on the severity of the incident.”

Police said they were looking for “criminal activity” in the video and pictures of the celebrations, which by most accounts were attended by a largely peaceful crowd.

A story in yesterday’s issue of the Diamondback, the student newspaper, called the celebration a “riot” and reported that some revelers threw debris at police and cursed firefighters who extinguished the fires.

“We’re looking for people who are actually starting the fires or destroying property or throwing objects at the police,” said Maj. Paul Dillon, university police spokesman.

If individuals are caught on video committing an offense, police departments will post pictures on their Web sites and ask the public to identify those people, Maj. Dillon said.

The property damage and violence Sunday was less severe than in 2001, when Maryland lost in the Final Four and in 2002, when the team won the national title.

The students did $500,000 in damage to College Park in 2001. And after the 2002 riots, the university updated its code of student conduct, making suspension or expulsion a possible penalty for students found guilty of “rioting, assault, theft, vandalism, arson or breach of the peace.”

Mr. Cathcart said the university was pleased with the police’s last-minute planning Sunday and with officers’ measured response to the celebration.

“This was a much better experience than the last few years,” he said. “By the same token, we’re still disappointed that some students see breaking the law as an appropriate response to an athletic event, and we’re committed to taking action. We’ve got to send a message that this is not appropriate.”

Some College Park business owners said they were not concerned about the celebrations. But Derek Martino, who manages the University Shop, said those business owners were probably not around during the riots two years ago.

“That is the direction it was heading” Sunday, he said.

He said police controlled the situation before it got out of hand, but he is still concerned about next time. “It is dangerous,” Mr. Martino said.

A Prince George’s police spokesman said if Maryland advances into the final rounds of the NCAA tournament, which begins Thursday, then more officers will be brought out.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide