Police probe New Hampshire pumpkin fest melee
Oct. 21, 2014
KEENE, N.H. (AP) — Local authorities in New Hampshire vowed Monday to prosecute the perpetrators of the violent disturbances near Keene's annual pumpkin festival that led to property damage and dozens of arrests and injuries over the weekend.
Keene Police Chief Kenneth Meola said also that college students who did nothing criminal but exercised "poor behavior" during the melee Saturday that overwhelmed police would be referred to their schools.
The parties around Keene State College coincided with the family-friendly Keene Pumpkin Festival, when the community tries to set a world record of the largest number of carved and lighted jack-o-lanterns in one place.
Police said social media helped draw a large number of outsiders and contributed to the mayhem. Police donned riot gear and used tear gas and pepper balls in trying to control the crowds, reaching up to about 2,000 at some places that afternoon, police said.
Col. Robert Quinn of the New Hampshire State Police said people not only threw empty cans and beer bottles at police but also hurled billiard balls, rocks, debris and bottles full of liquor.
"I saw shields that were smashed," Quinn said. "The potential for someone being seriously injured or killed was there."
Police made 84 arrests over the weekend, although not all were related to the disturbance. Quinn said multiple felony charges, including first and second-degree assault, could be filed against some individuals.
"We will bring whatever resources necessary to bear to bring those involved to justice," he said.
A police department log shows officers responded to 235 calls between 2:30 a.m. Friday and 3:30 a.m. Sunday. One group of young people threatened to beat up an elderly man, and another resident heard someone "threatening to kill officers," according to the police log.
Police said a task force would be created. They also asked the public for help in identifying those who may have been responsible for the disturbances.
Keene State College President Anne Huot said any students involved would face disciplinary action, possibly including expulsion.
College students cleaned up the area Sunday.