Livingstone students respond to fight, arrests
The Livingstone College students arrested after a celebration for seniors got out of hand last weekend say campus and Salisbury police overreacted to what started as a simple fight.
Sophomore Bobleto Latta and friend Jalan Coles say they weren’t involved in the fight and that now people have the wrong impression about them.
Livingstone campus police responded April 28 to a fight in the gym and called the Salisbury Police Department to assist them when things escalated. There were groups of people fighting throughout campus, officials have said. Latta, 19, and Coles, 20, were the only two people charged during the incident. Both were charged with misdemeanor offenses.
Both students say the party got out of hand when two female Livingstone College students began fighting inside the gym.
“I feel like we were blamed for starting the fight,” Coles said. “It makes it seem like we were responsible.”
Latta, Coles and other friends including sophomore Eric Mack left the gym, they say, when Livingstone campus police sprayed the students in the gym with pepper spray.
Outside, authorities used pepper spray and tear gas. Sixteen Salisbury police officers and two Rowan County sheriff’s deputies responded to the campus at the request of Livingstone police.
All three students say there were fights throughout campus involving Livingstone students and non-students, but they say there were not 200 to 300 people on campus in and around the fighting, as authorities have said. The students say the incident did not rise to the level of a riot.
Mack said the fight between the two women began Friday and continued into the weekend, resulting in the fight in the gym late Saturday and early Sunday. Police were called in after midnight Sunday.
Mack said it was an overreaction by Livingstone Police and Salisbury Police. The students said they felt if campus police had simply broken up the fight between the two women, the incident would not have occurred.
“The college is continuing to investigate the matter and attempting to identify all involved parties,” said Livingstone spokeswoman Laurie D. Willis. “If we identify any students who were involved in the incident, we will determine at that time what appropriate action should be taken against them.”
Repeated attempts to reach Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins for comment were unsuccessful.
Salisbury Police arrived to the campus, guns and police dogs in tow, the three said.
One student who asked to not be named said that, contrary to what Livingstone officials said earlier this week, the majority of the people involved were Livingstone students.
Coles, who was charged with failure to disperse, said he tried to leave the area. When police told him to return to his room, the dorm he was nearest was a women’s dormitory, and he couldn’t go inside.
Coles said he continued to walk near Dancy Hall, but stopped when a student asked if he’d seen a friend of hers. Coles said he couldn’t get into Dancy Hall because he did not have access. Police said Coles was arrested when he refused to leave the front of Dancy Hall.
Latta, was arrested a short time later, charged with an alcohol violation and resisting arrest.
He admits to backing away from officers when they attempted to arrest him, but said he was only asking what he’d done.
A Salisbury Police officer shocked Latta with a Taser. Latta said the barbs struck him in the stomach. He said it was painful and brought him to tears.
He admits to “trash talking,” but said he didn’t deserve to be shot with the Taser and to have officers place their knees in his back as he was on the ground. He was taken to the ground by three officers. Latta said he was not carried to the patrol car, as police reports indicated, but walked to the car on his own.
Salisbury Police had said earlier this week two other males tried to intervene while Latta was being arrested. Mack said no one tried to intervene.
“It hurt because I didn’t do anything,” Latta said.
Coles said he’s had people call his family regarding the incident and have faced ridicule from fellow students.
The students said there were people in the crowd who were shouting racial slurs, cursing at the officers and did not comply with the officers’ commands to disperse. The students also said there were officers who used racial slurs toward students.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: www.twitter.com/salpostpotts Facebook: www.facebook.com/Shavonne.SalisburyPost.