House Party Ends in Handcuffs

An unidentified black man was arrested by Colorado Springs police in the early morning hours of Saturday, Sept. 16, while attending an off-campus, Colorado College party. Dozens of students witnessed the arrest, and it immediately sent shockwaves around campus through social media.

“I was standing in the driveway, and I saw the cop cars pull in front of the house,” said a student who recorded the event on video and wishes to remain anonymous. “It kind of looked like a normal cop breakup of a house party, where they just put on the cop car lights and scare people into leaving . . . and I saw that just to my left, two men had gotten tackled by the cops . . . A friend of mine walked over to them and tried to figure out what was going on, and there were two policemen on top of this one guy.”

Illustration By Annabel Driussi

Wyatt Morrison ’20 gave a similar account. “I was right next to the house, there were easily over 50 people outside,” said Morrison. “I was with my friends off to the side, and I saw the cops roll up. They did their usual thing with their flashlights, and they’re walking around. I just thought it was protocol — they do that stuff all the time. People started shuffling around because they didn’t really want to be there anymore. Then this one kid started walking out of the driveway, and the cops just tackled him onto the gravel.”

The student who recorded the video said they started doing so, “just out of instinct,” saying, “they’d had him, like, face down on the ground, two big guys on top of him. They weren’t telling him why he was being handcuffed or what was going on, they pulled him up and took him to the street to question him, and a group of CC students followed behind, kind of yelling at the cops to get answers.”

Morrison corroborated the speed at which students witnessing the arrest got involved, stating, “Everyone, at least around me, was pretty on it from there, being a large vocal force… there were a ton of students and no traffic getting through at all, and we all followed [the police] out into the street.”

The Colorado Springs Police came to the party because they were responding to a call about four African American men in a white Suburban carrying guns. According to the student who recorded the incident, “they weren’t giving any answers [at first]” said the student, “all they really said [to the students] was ‘back up, speak to our supervisor,’ and one of them shoved my friend.  Eventually, we got to talk to the supervisor, all he told us was that they came because they heard there was someone with a gun in the area… the cop was just using a very condescending tone [when speaking to students].”

The student remarked on the difference in the cop’s behavior towards the African American men and then later, their treatment of the Suburban’s actual owner, a white man. He stated, “There was this one white guy who came in once the cops said they were looking for four black men driving a Suburban with guns, and said, ‘that’s my Suburban.’ He had the keys for it, so the cop went to talk to him, and then a friend of mine went to talk to another cop.  And just the difference in tone the cop had [towards the white owner of the Suburban], being like ‘I’m sorry, we’re just trying to figure things out,’ compared to when he was questioning the black man, like, ‘what’s your name, where’s your ID, what are you doing here,’ all those aggressive questions, and the black guy [was] just being apologetic… They ended the conversation when they released the black guy from the handcuffs.”

Morrison remarked on the gravity of the incident, “It was scary. I’d never experienced something like that at Colorado College. Their superior officer kept saying that this happened like, every weekend, I don’t know. It was bad.”

The arrest took place at 328 Uintah Street, a house where six off-campus Colorado College seniors live.  Neither residents Frances Gellert ’19 or Stella Gardner ’19 were part of the group of students who were close when the man was handcuffed, but say they heard “lots of different stories” about the incident. “What I saw were cops coming, and all the sudden, there was a black man tackled to the ground, and everyone was leaving the party at that point” said Gellert.  “I got really upset, because cops were showing up to the party, and all the sudden the first black man they saw was on the ground being tackled.”

When asked about the identity of the man and the presence of non-Colorado College students at the party, Gardner said, “We don’t really know [who came into the party]. Our house wasn’t really being monitored in a good way, because a lot of the party was in the backyard, and to get to the backyard, you can just walk straight through the driveway. We should’ve been a bit more vigilant about who was coming in, but we didn’t know at the time that there were people here that didn’t go to CC.”

Gellert continued, “there are always people at parties who aren’t CC students. Monitoring and kicking people out can be kind of uncomfortable and even manning the door as a house of all women is a little bit uncomfortable and difficult as well. You know, with trying to assert your dominance over a man who’s trying to enter the party and being like ‘no, you can’t come.’”

The residents of 328 Uintah felt this discomfort towards the police when they set foot on their property. “I mean, [the police] just kind of barged in, and none of the people who lived here knew why they were here” Said Gardner. “The next day we spent a lot of time trying to get in contact with the police department to figure out, like, what happened, like, why was there someone arrested at our house, why they first came on the property. We were really trying to get a lot more information, but everyone I talked to would just forward me to another person [in the department], and by the end of the day, all they could say is, ‘we have instructions not to talk about it.’”

After some persistence, Gellert received a little bit more information, “I actually did talk to one of the officers after it happened, and all he would tell me is that one of my peers called, like, ‘your peer was worried,’ and these guys matched the description.  They were four black guys in a white Suburban, waving guns out of their car, is what I was told. And when the cops came, they found ammunition in what I’m pretty sure is a white Suburban. So they found ammunition, and came into our party.  When [the cops] came [into the party] there was nothing aggressive happening, but I have no idea what would’ve happened,” she said. According to Gardner, “they didn’t find weapons on the people that they arrested, so who knows if they, like, stashed them somewhere, who knows if they had weapons at all.”   

What does this incident say about the political atmosphere of Colorado Springs, especially regarding guns, race, and police brutality? And what effect does this have on CC party culture?  According to Gellert, “it’s confusing assessing a. was this a real threat and b. how the cops responded to it. But the person who did call the cops was genuinely scared, and that worries us that there could’ve been someone in the house that wanted to harm people here. I’d never recognized that as a threat during a party before.”

Gardner continued, “it’s not like the solution is to just close off all parties or hire security guards, which are things we’ve since been thinking about going forward. Like, can we have big parties again?  Should we not have parties at all? Should we block off the driveway? It’s a hard line, because you don’t want to be exclusive to certain people, but you also need to be safe, and being one of the people that lives here, I definitely feel responsible for keeping our guests safe.”

Moreover, the student who recorded the arrest spoke to the politically conservative climate of Colorado Springs, stating, “it’s just the broader attitude of C Springs… for whatever the stance is on the second amendment, it bothers me that there are guns everywhere, but to have the attitude in general in Colorado Springs that if you’re white, it’s okay to have a gun, but if you’re black, you seem to be a criminal… that’s just what’s been bothering me.”  Fortunately, enough witnesses of the arrest called into the Colorado Springs Police Department to spark an internal investigation. “It’s good on one hand,” expressed the recorder of the incident, “but also, it’s a police department doing an internal investigation of itself, so I’m not really expecting anything to happen there.”

Neither Colorado College Campus Safety nor the Colorado Springs Police Department have responded to the Catalyst’s requests for interviews.  If you were a witness or have any information about the events in this article, please call the Police Operations Center at (719)-426-1953.

Erica Williams

Erica Williams

Erica has been reporting for the Catalyst since her freshman year. She is a history-poly-sci and REMs double major. Interestingly, her grandfather fixed Einstein's furnace.

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