Police: Most students arrested in riot were drinking

Court records show all but one person arrested during what police say was a riot situation near the Penn State Altoona Campus were intoxicated or drinking underage.

In all, 13 people were arrested at off-campus student apartment complex Nittany Pointe, but Penn State Altoona Director of Communications Shari Routch said it was still too early to comment on how the university will address the arrests of the students involved. Routch said police were handling the investigation and the university was withholding comment for now.

Nittany Pointe residents and guests were ordered to remain inside apartments after a vodka bottle thrown at police touched off what police deemed a riot. Logan Township Police Chief Ron Heller said the parking lots around the complex, where an outdoor party of about 800 people commenced Saturday afternoon, were littered with broken glass as people threw bottles from balconies and taunted police with profanity.

Heller said officers initially were there on patrol and observed underage drinking and open containers. It wasn’t until the bottle was thrown at a police cruiser did police order the crowd to disperse and things got ugly.

Management of Nittany Pointe declined to comment or answer questions about the incident.

Heller said police continue to investigate but as of Monday no new charges were imminent.

According to court records, 12 of the 13 arrested were drinking, including a 20-year-old who tried to get away from police in a vehicle, ultimately driving on the wrong side of the street down Gwin Road. Police said Jason D. Shaw of Emporium nearly lost control of his vehicle, drove into a ditch and ran a stop sign as he ignored police. Shaw was arrested after he drove through the Nittany Pointe parking lot, which was full of people, and parked.

Another suspect who police said was visibly intoxicated, Tyler F. Holleran, 20, of Malvern, allegedly asked police if he could “get out of this” because he had defecated in his pants.

Some students told the Mirror previously that they believed the police reaction to Saturday’s party to be excessive, such as suspect Kevin B. Nelson who claimed he was only sitting on his apartment porch with his guitar when he was dragged off by police, hit with a Taser and arrested on felony charges. Police said Nelson was ordered to go inside and refused, going as far as to taunt officers who had already been to the apartment once to tell residents to remain inside.

Heller defended officers’ actions as necessary due to the number of students, the fact many were drunk and because the party had disintegrated into a riot situation.

Court records indicate that police didn’t intervene until the bottle was thrown at the cruiser and that officers were being taunted even before that. Some who were arrested, such as Thomas R. Haak, 19, of Pittsburgh were allegedly drunk and called for other students to continue the fracas from the third-story of his Nittany Pointe apartment building.

“You can’t do anything, I’m getting a grant,” Haak allegedly yelled at police, according to his arrest papers.

Heller said Logan Township police were aware of the party beforehand and were at Nittany Pointe as part of their patrol.

The 13 suspects arrested Saturday are due to appear Thursday before Magisterial District Judge Steven Jackson for preliminary hearings.