UNH party draws 500; police make arrest
DURHAM - Police used pepper spray to break up a crowd of about 500 young people partying outside on Madbury Court Saturday afternoon after some threw beer bottles and cans at officers ordering them to disperse.
One man, Jordan M. Mahar, 21, of Wolfeboro was arrested on charges of riot (a felony), assault on a police officer and resisting arrest.
Deputy Police Chief Rene Kelley said the incident began shortly after 4 p.m. when two officers responded to a complaint about a loud party on Madbury Court. What they found, he said, was a crowd of about 500 people blocking the street and filling the lawns of several apartment buildings in the area.
"They attempted to disperse the crowd, and when they did so, they were met with a barrage of thrown beer bottles and beer cans," Kelley said. One officer was hit in the head by a beer bottle, but was not seriously injured, he said.
The two Durham officers retreated and called for backup, and state troopers and officers from the University of New Hampshire, Lee and Newmarket police departments responded. Kelley said there were about 25 officers on the scene.
Police again ordered the crowd to disperse and "again the officers had beer bottles and beer cans thrown at them," the deputy chief said.
"At that point we deployed pepper spray and pepper ball," he said, explaining that the latter emits a powder form of the ingredient in pepper spray when it comes in contact with a person or the ground.
Police arrested Mahar, who is not a student at UNH, after he allegedly threw a beer bottle at a UNH police officer. He was being held at Strafford County Jail on $5,000 cash bail, Kelley said.
For the next two hours, Kelley said, police continued to disperse smaller crowds from the downtown area and Madbury Road. It took until nearly 7:30 p.m. for the incident to end.
Kelley said Madbury Court has many off-campus apartments where UNH students live. He said Mark Rubinstein, the university's vice president of student and academic services, was at the scene and witnessed some of what happened.
He said there were no reports of injuries as a result of the pepper spray.
The deputy chief characterized the scene as "an out-of-control crowd who turned hostile towards the police."
Kelley, who has been in Durham for 26 years, said, "We've not had a situation like this in a very long time in Durham, and it's disappointing that it happened today."