MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A big win for West Virginia over Baylor led to an even bigger problem hours later as riots and fires broke out across the city Saturday night.
Morgantown police reported seven arrests overnight, with more expected from state police and Westover units.
Police Chief Ed Preston said the surge built through social media, and by 10:30 p.m. police and fire fighters were responding to calls of street parties, blazes and destruction, starting in Sunnyside.
“We had fires in residential neighborhoods. We had where they tried to flip vehicles over in other places,” Preston said.
The chief explained just as police would get one situation under control, officers would get called to another area.
“As they were broken up or dispersed, other gatherings would occur in other parts of the city. Sometimes two, three, four gatherings were occurring at a time at various locations throughout the city,” said the chief.
When groups moved into downtown, they began pushing over street lights on High Street and throwing rocks and bottles at public safety personnel and their vehicles. That’s when police moved in.
Officers from multiple agencies warned the crowd to disperse, and when that didn’t happen, police used pepper spray and chemical munitions to disrupt the riots.
“Although we had a number of riots involving thousands of people, we were able to prevent any serious injuries. We did have property damage but we didn’t have any major property damage. We didn’t have any buildings set on fire or anything like that,” said Preston.
A student took cell phone video of a riot near Summit Hall. Loud bursts can be head before white smoke appeared and rioters starting running in the opposite direction.
This is the first time this season that crowds have created mayhem after a WVU game. The Mountaineers defeated No. 4 Baylor 41-27 on Saturday afternoon.
“This is a fantastic sports program but their victories end up being marred by the conduct of people like this,” Preston said. “That’s the really disappointing thing.”
The chief said it will take a couple of days to assess the damage.
University president Gordon Gee said the school would join police in reviewing surveillance video and social media posts to identify any students involved.
“This is not acceptable Mountaineer behavior,” he said. “It is not ‘partying’ to set fires, tear down fences or throw bottles at police. It is criminal and will be dealt with as such. I have zero tolerance for students who wish to act in such a way that it demeans the achievements of our institution and its faculty, staff, students, alumni and our Morgantown community.”