Off-campus party turns violent

Off-campus party turns violent
Martin police are taking a “zero tolerance” position in the aftermath of a fraternity party that apparently got out of control early Sunday at an off-campus location.
Martin Police Chief David Moore said the party hosted by University of Tennessee at Martin fraternity Phi Beta Sigma took place early Sunday at 123 Church St. in Martin in an empty building formerly known as the nightclub Chaos.
He explained that the owner of the building apparently rents the space to fraternities on occasion for the purpose of parties.
He said reliable information exists that indicates the fraternities — operating under rules that govern non-profit organizations — open the parties for general admission, advertise them widely and collect an entry fee.
“These occasions have historically become the scenes of fights and masses of disorderly persons overflowing from the building to adjacent streets and parking lots,” Moore said. “Once dispersed, police are typically summoned to other mass calls of disorder at businesses open overnight such as convenience stores and restaurants.”
Moore said “the typical excuse” in these circumstances is that rival fraternities or non-fraternity patrons start the disorder. In the case of Sunday’s incident, he said the president and vice president of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity related to officers that a member of UT Martin fraternity Omega Phi Psi, accompanied by members of his fraternity from other colleges or universities, “rushed the door,” assaulting several people and resulting in two who were hospitalized and several more who were treated at the scene.
“Following the appropriately named ‘chaos’ inside, as patrons poured from the building into the parking lots, multiple fights broke out, requiring all available law enforcement in the county to respond to assist Martin officers in order maintenance,” Moore said. “During this phase, shots from some type of firearms were heard by officers and community members in various locations in the downtown area. At this time, no reports have been made of injuries related to gunshots. This continued until all parties could be dispersed.”
According to Moore, one person was arrested for brandishing a night stick during one of several altercations which occurred simultaneously.
Other charges may be levied against others as the investigation continues regarding varying degrees of responsibility for promoting, agitating or inciting riotous acts.
“It is a personal affront to the City of Martin and its citizens for this type of behavior to be accepted or tolerated,” he said.
“The Martin Police Department pledges a zero tolerance position for activities that by design set the stage for such a dangerous environment for our police officers and citizens alike.”
“Martin Police Department and the University of Tennessee at Martin Department of Public Safety are continuing to investigate the incident. No further information is available at this time,” said Dr. Margaret Toston, UT Martin vice chancellor for student affairs.
Moore said police will be continuing meetings with UT Martin administration, the district attorney’s office, fraternity representatives and citizens who provide venues for such activities.

wcp 5/5/11

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