Editors note: This sentence was corrected to say: “by no means were there 200 to 300 students involved in the fighting. Some of those in the crowd were bystanders,” Willis said.
An earlier version of the article incorrectly said 200 to 300 people were involved in the fighting.
By Shavonne Potts
Livingstone College officials say they are investigating what led law enforcement to use crowd suppressant gas and pepper spray to break up a number of fights on the campus early Sunday morning.
The incident involved an estimated 200 to 300 people, according to a Salisbury Police Department report, but only two were charged. Police charged the two, both Livingstone students, with misdemeanor offenses. The initial call to emergency dispatchers was regarding an incident involving about 100 people.
Livingstone’s campus police called outside law enforcement to the West Monroe Street campus around 12:12 a.m. Sunday. It was not clear Monday what precipitated the fights, but it took authorities more than an hour to quell the situation.
Sixteen Salisbury police officers and two Rowan County sheriff’s deputies responded to the campus. Officers noted several fights that began to spread throughout the campus, including near the school’s gym and dormitories.
Laurie D. Willis, assistant director of public relations, said in a Monday afternoon statement there was a planned farewell event for Livingstone seniors held on the campus. But what was supposed to be a closed event for students only was also attended by some non-Livingstone students. It is not clear how many of those involved in the incident were Livingstone students, she said.
Willis said there may have been more than 200 people in and around the fighting, but “by no means were there 200 to 300 students involved in the fighting. Some of those in the crowd were bystanders,” Willis said. Willis said at one point tensions flared and law enforcement became involved. Livingstone College police along with other law enforcement “acted swiftly to quell the situation,” she said.
Livingstone students were asked to return to their residence halls, they complied, and non-Livingstone students were promptly escorted off the campus, Willis said.
The incident is being handled internally by Livingstone College administrators.
People in the crowd were shouting racial slurs, cursing at the officers and did not comply with officers’ commands to disperse, Salisbury police Capt. Shelia Lingle said.
One student, Bobleto Devon Latta Jr., 19, of Washington, D.C., was charged with misdemeanor resist, delay, obstruct a law enforcement officer and a liquor law violation, also a misdemeanor.
According to a police report, when officers tried to arrest Latta, two other males intervened, causing other officers to step in to help.
Latta was taken to the ground and stunned with a Taser, the report said. He still did not comply, and officers picked Latta up and put him in a patrol car. Once in the vehicle, a report said he began to cry. Latta was released after posting a $1,000 secured bond.
Another student, Jalan Thomas Coles, 20, was charged with misdemeanor failure to disperse. A police report said Coles was asked to leave the front of Dancy Hall dormitory, but did not. He was released after posting a $1,000 secured bond.
Firefighters and EMS were positioned at the front gates of the campus to decontaminate students after police used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowd. The incident was contained to the campus.
“You want to calm the situation and make sure no one gets hurt,” Lingle said of the incident.
No one had to be taken to the hospital, Lingle said.
Willis said there were no reports of injuries or anyone who sought medical assistance from the campus infirmary or any local urgent care facilities.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: www.twitter.com/salpostpotts Facebook: www.facebook.com/Shavonne.SalisburyPost.