Police, witnesses and the chancellor have different accounts of what happened after police responded to a house party early Sunday morning.
The Carbondale Police Department issued a press release Tuesday that states approximately 400 people attended a house party on the 800 block of West Walnut Street when officers arrived at around 1 a.m. Sunday. Since the incident, reports from student witnesses and police have differed over what happened after police arrived, including reports of the use of tear gas and the circumstances surrounding the arrest of one female.
Residents of the house twice told the Daily Egyptian that around 700 people attended the party.
Chancellor Rita Cheng said police told her there were 300-400 people in attendance before 1 a.m. but only around 50-100 at 1:30 a.m. when the police arrived.
A Carbondale police press release issued Tuesday afternoon said about 400 people were at the house at about 1 a.m.
According to the release, the party was in violation of several city ordinances, including amplified sound, and guests under the age of 21 who were found to be in possession of alcohol were issued citations.
Tesheema S. Ross, age 21 of Maywood, was arrested on charges of aggravated battery to a police officer and resisting a peace officer at 12:56 a.m. after a disturbance began near the intersection of West Walnut Street and South James Street, the report states. She was taken to the Jackson County Jail. The release did not say if Ross is a student, and her name was not found in the SIUC student directory.
The release also states Qasim O. Sowemimo was issued a citation for responsibility of persons control of a premise after police had contacted the resident in an attempt to end the party.
Police refused to comment Sunday at the scene and told Daily Egyptian reporters Tuesday they would need to file a Freedom of Information Act request for the police report. Chief of Police Jody O’Guinn did not return messages that sought comment Tuesday.
Naomi Webb, a junior from Chicago studying criminal justice who was at the party, said she heard people say Ross was arrested for getting into a fight. However, Webb said she never witnessed a fight.
“She was crossing the street, and I guess the police didn’t want her to,” Webb said. “So he came over there and grabbed her forcefully … (and) pulled her hair.”
Webb said the officer “slammed her to the ground.”
“They were just beating her up,” she said.
While one of the residents said the officers used tear gas on attendees without warning, other students said they heard police threaten to use the spray if people did not get out of the street.
Webb also said she saw people being sprayed with tear gas by officers after they informed attendees to “get back” off the property and out of the road. She said she did not witness any fights, but she said she thought police were trying to break up the gathering.
“It was just a lot of people outside, and they probably felt they needed to do it, but there wasn’t anything happening at the time,” she said.
Webb said she was not sure how many people were there because it was too crowded to enter the house when she arrived at 1 a.m.
“It was a couple hundred,” she said.
Webb said she believed the party had such high attendance because females got in for free. She said males were charged at the door.
Students took advantage of Twitter this week to voice their opinions on the incident. One individual with the Twitter name ‘@beehoove’ tweeted:
“‘We arrest them down here in Southern Illinois’ is what one of the police officers said after 3 others wrestled the girl down.”
Cheng said she thought the two photos the Daily Egyptian ran in the Monday edition negatively portrayed SIU and requested a retraction by email. The photo on the cover depicted a crowd running away from a cloud of tear gas; the picture on page two showed Ross being apprehended in the middle of the street.
“The fact that there was one arrest because the young woman refused to get out of the street and was blocking traffic and then resisted the officers trying to remove her from the street is to me not sensational,” she said. “That can happen with some young person having too much to drink. And so my concern is we’ve worked so hard to change the bad image of the institution, and it seems like every time I turn around there is sensationalism.”
Cheng said she thinks the university is fortunate to have the SIU Department of Public Safety work closely with the Carbondale Police Department to help keep students safe.
“Things aren’t perfect, but they’re certainly not terrible, too,” she said.