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Low-Flying Police Helicopter Causes Disturbance at Beaver Stadium Tailgate Lot

by on September 30, 2018 5:30 PM

Update Monday, October 1, 2:32 p.m.: The Pennsylvania State Police released a statement about the helicopter incident at the tailgate Saturday.

According to the statement, a state police helicopter called in “to issue commands to disperse via loudspeaker” after ground efforts had failed. When personnel noticed the helicopter was “low enough to disturb items on the ground,” it was pulled up to a higher altitude.

Two state police horses were assaulted and one trooper was injured during the ground intervention.

Below is the full statement from State Police.

The Pennsylvania State Police was called to assist in response to a large-scale party that was getting out of hand, creating a risk to persons and property. First, the tailgaters ignored commands to disperse from law enforcement on the ground.
 
Then PSP deployed personnel, including the Pennsylvania State Police Tactical Mounted Unit. The crowd began to turn unruly and two PSP horses were assaulted and a trooper was injured. Ground units pulled back in an effort to deescalate the situation. 
 
Following this incident, the Pennsylvania State Police Aviation Unit was called to assist. A helicopter was utilized to issue commands to disperse via loudspeaker. When personnel on scene noticed the helicopter was low enough to disturb items on the ground, the helicopter pulled up to a higher altitude.
 
The PSP Tactical Mounted Unit and the Aviation Section routinely provide assistance at events like this when large crowds are expected.

Before the party was broken up, undercover liquor enforcement officers made a purchase to obtain alcohol at the tailgate, according to police. Criminal charges for selling alcohol without a license and furnishing alcohol to a minor are pending. Police seized $200, four 30-packs of beer and eight handles of alcohol, according to a release.

Update Monday, October 1, 1:25 p.m.: A representative from the Federal Aviation Administration's Flight Standards District Office in Harrisburg said the incident at the tailgate is under investigation by the FAA.

Update Monday, October 1, 11:25 a.m.:  Penn State Police issued a statement about officers’ response to the senior tailgates on Saturday, citing the group’s “numerous law violations” and refusal “to disperse following verbal commands.” The statement noted at least one officer was injured during the process and that using the helicopter was a last resort after other interventions failed to control the crowd.

Here is the full statement:

“We understand concerns have been raised regarding police activity during tailgate celebrations in one lot, in advance of the Penn State vs. Ohio State game on Saturday (Sept. 29). University Police wishes to reassure fans that officers were responding to the circumstances on the ground, which involved numerous law violations, including serious threats to officer safety within a disorderly crowd. Unruly individuals refused to disperse following verbal commands and at least one officer suffered injuries. It is rare to resort to these expanded interventions; however, when all other warnings from the mounted police unit and officers on the ground were ignored, a Pennsylvania State Police helicopter was deployed as another tool to compel the group to disperse and curb dangerous and unruly behavior. Following the use of the helicopter, the dangerous behaviors dissipated.”

 

Original story:

A state police helicopter flying close to the ground created a disturbance at pre-White Out tailgates Saturday near Beaver Stadium by slinging tents, grills and other debris through the air in section 23 of the Yellow lot, according to witness accounts and video.

A video shows the helicopter flying reportedly as low as 30 feet from the ground at the tailgate lot, which is located at the corner section of Orchard Road and Park Avenue.

(Videos contain profanity)

Penn State parent and tailgater Scott Olson said that early Saturday morning, a police officer asked the fraternity tailgating next to his group to move one space over. After the fraternity’s members refused to move, the officer told Olson and his group that the fraternity would be on watch for the day.

We’ve been told that the tailgate wasn’t just one fraternity, like Olson described, but a senior tailgate with members of the Greek community and that is known to be rowdy. 

Olson said police didn’t check in all day, until some time between 3:30 and 4 p.m. when eight officers on horseback and 15-20 other officers showed up to disperse the frat’s tailgate. Shortly after, the helicopter flew in and made a sharp cut in Olson’s aisle, picking up tents and other debris. 

“There was no fighting or big disruption. No one was doing anything crazy or outlandish. We didn’t have any issue with them all day,” said Olson, who reported a scratch to his Mercedes-Benz truck thanks to a flying tent and said a girl at his tailgate was cut on the face from debris.

Another video of the helicopter was posted to YouTube with the description that said police arrived on foot and horseback to break up "a very large, rowdy tailgate party" and when that didn't work, the helicopter was called in.

"The helicopter pilot used the p.a. to order the crowd to disperse," the description said. "And then used the down draft to get the point across, blowing down canopies, etc.."


Olson, meanwhile, said he plans to file a police report this week.

“Can you imagine if a helicopter sent debris that hit a horse and it got spooked and started trampling the kids? This could’ve been a tragedy," Olson said. "If that helicopter had any type of accident, you would’ve had people shredded everywhere and cars on fire. It’s so fortunate that there wasn’t a major tragedy yesterday.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.



Anthony Colucci is a writer for Onward State
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