Chief says police didn't use excessive force; melee started by students blocking ambulance

LEWISTON — Police Chief Michael Bussiere disputed claims of excessive force in the early-morning arrest of 11 Bates College students Wednesday, saying the incident began with seniors visiting their old first-year dorm on campus just before midnight.

LPD Press Conference
Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Chief Michael Bussiere of the Lewiston Police Department, left, speaks at the police station about the incident that happened early Wednesday morning when Bates College students refused to disperse and 11 people were arrested. Bates Director of Security Tom Carey, right, made a statement after Bussiere.

Eleven Bates College students arrested early Wednesday morning on campus:

• Samuel Guilford, 23, of Surry, on charges of aggravated assault, refusing to submit to arrest, disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. Bail set at $500; bailed out 6:23 a.m.

• Paul Chiampa, 21, of Bryantville, Mass., on charges of failing to disperse and refusing to submit to arrest. Bail set at $100; bailed out 4:28 a.m.

• Zachary Fenno, 21, of Armonk, N.Y., on charges of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. Bail set at $50; bailed out at 6:21 a.m.

• Sarah Ewing, 22, of Washington, Conn., on charges of disorderly conduct, failure to disperse and refusing to submit to arrest. Bail set at $50; bailed out at 7:52 a.m.

• Kelvin Gutierrez, 19, of New York, N.Y., on a charge of failure to disperse. Bail set at $200; bailed out at 8:18 a.m.

• Charles Carey, 20, of Lincoln, Mass., on a charge of failure to disperse. Bail set at $200; bailed out at 6:18 a.m.

• Andrew Livingston, 23, of Waterville, on charges of disorderly conduct, failure to disperse and refusing to submit to arrest. Bail set at $100; bailed out at 4:21 a.m.

• Francis Suozzo, 21, of Golden Bridge, N.Y., on a charge of failure to disperse. Bail set at $50; bailed out at 6:39 a.m.

• Kevin Hanrahan, 21, of Glen Mills, Pa., on charges of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. Bail set at $100; bailed out at 7:52 a.m.

• Kush Mahan, 22, of Kalamazoo, Mich., on charges of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. Bail set at $100; bailed out at 6:24 a.m.

• Mark Stehlik, 22, of Buffalo, N.Y., on charges of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. Bail set at $60; bailed out at 8:18 a.m.

The group — which grew to as many as 300 people — blocked an ambulance called to Smith Hall and events escalated from there, with an officer breaking his leg in two places during a scuffle and students refusing to leave the area, then resisting arrest and yelling taunts, Bussiere said Wednesday.

“While I know some of the students are upset they got arrested last night, and I know some of them are upset their friends got arrested last night, I think it’s important for them to realize Bates College security and the Lewiston Police Department are here to protect them and, sometimes, to protect them from themselves,” Bussiere said.

“I think, obviously, alcohol played a role in this," he said. "Excessive alcohol.”

One first-year student, two sophomores, two juniors and six seniors were charged with failure to disperse. Eight face additional charges. Senior Samuel Guilford of Surry was charged with aggravated assault after he and Sgt. Robert Ullrich fell while Guilford was resisting arrest, Bussiere said. Ullrich broke his leg in two places and tore ligaments.

A second officer who Bussiere declined to identify suffered minor injuries and was already back on the job.

All 11 students were freed on bail before 9 a.m., according to Androscoggin County Jail Capt. John Lebel. They were given July court dates.

Bussiere said he wasn’t aware of any students getting seriously hurt in the melee, but in her news release, Bates College President Elaine Tuttle Hansen said that “a small number of Bates students were also treated for injuries.”

She said she was “deeply concerned” about the incident and that an internal investigation had been launched.

Bussiere said the night’s problems began when Bates security staff tried to clear a crowd on Bardwell Street in front of Smith Hall to make way for an ambulance. United Ambulance had been called to campus for two women who needed medical attention, possibly because of alcohol use.

Rescue workers had a difficult time pulling the ambulance up to the dorm and a difficult time leaving, the chief said.

United Ambulance Executive Director Paul Gosselin said that, after talking with staff, “I’m not sure if (students) were blocking it or there were just 300 people there and there was no room for them to go.”

When the ambulance turned on its lights to leave, no one moved. Next came sirens, which parted the crowd. It’s difficult to say how long the ambulance was held up, Gosselin said. The delay “wasn’t 20 minutes and it wasn’t 10 seconds.”

After 10 minutes of trying to clear the street and multiple warnings to leave, Bates security called Lewiston police for help at 11:57 p.m.

“Some people did disperse," Bussiere said. "At least 100, 150 refused to do so and several became confrontational with police, telling them it was private property and they didn’t have the right to be there."

Roughly 10 to 15 minutes after Lewiston police arrived, other departments were called for backup. Bussiere estimated there were at most 25 police and security personnel on the scene, outnumbered 10 to 1 by students.

After failing to break up even after Lewiston police got on loud speakers, the most confrontational students were arrested, he said. “A lot of folks got arrested for jumping in and trying to keep their friends from being arrested.”

He said he didn’t believe excessive force was used, noting that none of his officers used Tasers but some used pepper spray. After initially saying that no officer had used a baton, Bussiere said he got an in-house report that one officer had either used or displayed a baton.

As for student complaints that people being arrested weren’t read their rights, Bussiere said that fit procedure.

“At the scene of a fracas like this, they’re not going to take out their cards and read their Miranda rights because they’re not questioning them," Bussiere said. "Students watch TV like everyone else; in reality that’s not how it works. Some of the terminology they used, I’m not going to repeat it. It was, ‘"Blank" the police.’”

Tom Carey, Bates director of security, said the college hadn’t sanctioned the wandering senior party. He said more than 1,000 students on campus weren’t involved.

Most times, if a crowd gathers and people are asked to leave, “The students listen to the officers and it’s over in two minutes,” Carey said. “This is truly an aberration and something you see every 20, 30 years.”

By the time he arrived around 1 a.m., things were under control, he said. None of his personnel used batons or pepper spray on students.

“As a college community, Bates has enjoyed a long history of respect between our campus and local law enforcement,” Tuttle Hansen said in her release. “This incident is highly unusual for Bates, where the college’s values are clearly grounded in personal responsibility and respect for others.”

Bates College will hold its commencement Sunday. Spokesman Bryan McNulty said it was yet to be determined whether any of the seniors charged would be stopped from marching.

Bussiere said Ullrich would be out on leave for several months. When the swelling in his leg comes down, he’ll need surgery to insert pins.

“The kind of ironic thing about Sgt. Ullrich being injured, prior to him being promoted sergeant, he was the regional alcohol investigator and worked closely with Bates College,” Bussiere said.

Ullrich was 2009's law enforcement officer of the year for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

kskelton@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

drunk

the "kids" were drunk, celebrating the end of year. I bet all were not of age? how about finding out who bought the booze and arresting them. Without the beverages none of this would have happened.perhaps Bates has a tape of the situation on surveillance cams to protect the students from rapists and burglars.

 's picture

State Brutality

The first and only ( and the last time) time I was at the Old Port in Portland, I saw street sweepers spraying water on people leaving the pubs at around 1:30 in the morning. It was without a doubt a way to disperse the "crowd".
Having lived in europe for the last 25 years, I was absolutly shocked!
Maine does not earn the moniker "Vacation Land". I would call it Police State Land!
On the way home to Auburn, (thank god I didn't drink) I encountered a roadblock where I was checked for DUI.
The way people are treated now days is reprensible!!!!
Nany State to the tenth factor!!!!
Can't even smoke while drinking a beer in a bar! What a shame. What has become of "Vacation Land".
I wonder what would have happened if Maine's finest would have been near our graduation festivities when I graduated!?!?!?
Please take a chill pill- We do not need a nanny state to babysit citizens.
I was an infrantry soldier looking for a fight. On the East German boarder, that was needed in 1986. We don't need that in Lewiston in 2010.... The kids are alright!

 's picture

Own up and take responsibility

I was arrested 30 years ago on obstruting government administration. I was intoxicated and could not keep my comments to myself. I was rude, disrespecful and deserved to end up in the back of that car.

You tend to do stupid things when you are inebriated. Own up to your stupidity pay the price and move on. If one of my children behaved the way the students behaved I would be embarressed. Bates security must have thought the situation was out of hand to call for back up.The police where doing their job.

At least they will be leaving this weekend. Unfortunately they will return this fall so let's enjoy the summer.

 's picture

Lawn Darts!

That brings back memories. Used to play lawn darts by the pool at my parents house. Haven't thought of that in a long time.

 's picture

“Some people did disperse,"

“Some people did disperse," Bussiere said. "At least 100, 150 refused to do so and several became confrontational with police, telling them it was private property and they didn’t have the right to be there."
Quite true, it IS private property, belonging to Bates College. Bates College Security called the cops in, so it is also FALSE, because they did have the right to be there.
KUDOS to the POLICE!!

 's picture

i know someone who recently

i know someone who recently had the police use excessive force on them by the LPD and they are quite small in stature. they are so afraid that they can't even answer their door in fear that they are coming back to hurt them. they don't feel like they can report this issue out of fear. they said that its like being violated. its too sad really. although i am sure that this bates college event had its reasons and causes for the actions that had taken place-don't be so blind to think that police brutality doesn't exist.

 's picture

thank you so much for your

thank you so much for your advice. although it is ultimately not my decision to report or coerce them to report the incident... its heartbreaking to me because i love them so dearly and want them to do the right thing so that this does not happen to anyone else again. no incident like this should deter anyone from making a report. thank you again.

 's picture

when you combine underage

when you combine underage drinking with 18-20 year olds that have been reared by parents who constantly re-affirmed their special status of being born and never wanting to damage the fragile self-esteem of their precious little snowflakes you get the type of self rightous conceited little twerps who think they are above the law. guess what? you are not. when the police tell to move, then do it, and there is a good chance you won't be clubbed or arrested.

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