Fights break out in VSU gymnasium, forcing police to use pepper spray

Posted at 10:32 AM, Mar 24, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-25 00:32:35-04

ETTRICK, Va. (WTVR) – Virginia State University police had to step in and break up Friday night’s “Gym Jam” event on campus in Daniel Gymnasium after several fights broke out and the crowd became unruly.

Campus police confirm to CBS 6 senior reporter Wayne Covil that they broke up the event and cleared the area after fights broke out among the crowd of more than 1600 people. Not everyone in attendance was in fact a student. It all happened around midnight.

“We just saw a couple of people just have a confrontation and then afterwards there was just a whole lot of chaos,” said VSU student Shannan Pritchett.

Police say that they used pepper spray to clear the gym. “Once that happened my friend quickly grabbed me and ran out the gym.  And I sat on the curb and held my eyes until the ambulance came,” a student who was pepper-sprayed tells CBS 6.

When the crowd spilled into the streets, they were told to return to their homes immediately. Students were sent back to their dorms.

“I just couldn’t believe it what was going on at my school,” said Pritchett, “because stuff like this doesn’t happen at VSU.”

Students tell CBS 6, the event was supposed to be a celebration to mark the beginning of spring.

Five people, four VSU students and one other person, were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. One of the suspects is also facing charges of obstruction and resisting arrest.

Students believe it was outsiders who crashed the party and caused all the commotion.  But they say there were a dozen campus police officers at the event to handle it.

There is no word from police on what sparked the fight inside the gymnasium or whether the university will have another event like the “Gym Jam” on campus for the remainder of the semester.