Saturday night at the Ramada Inn, Marlon Ward, who says he was a bystander when fighting broke out at an overcrowded sorority party, was arrested.
“I was just watching, and they (the police) just came up and maced me,” he said. By the time the Mace wore off, he was at the police station with the other seven people arrested.
High ticket sales may have lead to overcrowding
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. sponsored a fashion show earlier Saturday night, and people returned for an afterparty at 10:30 p.m. Two off-duty Columbia police officers were at the event as security guards, and they called for backup around midnight to handle overcrowding at the party.
Jarrett Griffin, who attended the party, said other rooms were opened to handle the number of people there, and people were asked to leave.
“I think it boils down to the fact that there appears to have been too many tickets sold to the event,” police Capt. Zim Schwartze said.
Officials to decide on possible fire code violations
No maximum-occupancy signs were posted at the hotel, said Columbia Fire Department Battalion Chief Steven Sapp. And the Columbia Fire Department didn’t have the maximum occupancy on file.
Officials from the Columbia police and fire departments met Tuesday to look into possible fire code violations by the Ramada Inn. No decision was made.
“We’re still working on it,” Sapp said. “We’re compiling reports.”
They will meet with hotel representatives today to discuss the incident, Schwartze said.
Many debate on use of police tactics
When the police arrived, they tried to get people to exit the building and fights broke out in the crowd, she said. The police used Mace to control the crowd. It is a tool commonly used to gain control of people, Schwartze said.
Jeremy Wilson attended the party and said he felt the action taken by the police wasn’t justified.
“They were arresting people who were just in the crowd, not the people fighting but people around the people who were fighting,” he said.
Griffin said that he believed the police action was justified when the size and the tone of the crowd were taken into consideration.
“I think the situation called for Mace because of all the random fighting,” he said. “I thought what they were doing was fine.”
The party goers
He said people at the party that weren’t part of MU fraternities contributed to the fights.
Of the eight people arrested, only three were MU students.
Missourian reporters Laura McNamar, Eric Knox and Lauren Schuttes contributed to this story.