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A peaceful New Year's Ball Drop turned ugly last night when local police attempted to clear the crowd from downtown at 12:08 a.m.

A peaceful New Year's Ball Drop turned ugly last night when local police attempted to clear the crowd from downtown at 12:08 a.m.

New Year’s celebration turns ugly with police actions

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Updated: 5:10 p.m. Monday, Jan. 2

More than 100 people gathered at the First Baptist Church from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. today to express their distress and ask questions regarding the interactions between police and villagers downtown on New Year’s Eve. The event was organized by the 365 Project, and Gavin DeVore Leonard of that group moderated.

While meeting organizers attempted to educate participants regarding groups already in existence that address issues of police/community relations, such as the Human Relations Commission, or HRC, those gathered had a need to vent their anger and frustration at the New Year’s Eve events.

“By all these people being here today, it says there’s a deep concern,” said Neal Crandall.

“There was a taser deployed in a crowd and it missed. It could have hit a child,” another man stated.

Many asked questions about the incident, including who in the police department was in charge on New Year’s Eve, and how the decision to disperse the crowd in the manner used had been made.

However, Leonard and others present, including Village Council President Karen Wintrow, emphasized that answers to those questions aren’t yet available. While the questions will be addressed at tomorrow’s Village Council meeting, the situation is still under investigation and answers to all questions may not be available immediately, she said.

Participants broke into small groups to articulate questions they want answered at the meeting. The Council meeting, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 3, will take place in the Bryan Center gym in order to hold a larger-than-normal crowd, Wintrow said.


Updated: 4:45 p.m., Monday, Jan. 2

Yellow Springs Chief of Police released a press statement at about 3 p.m. this afternoon regarding the police department’s version of events that transpired on New Year’s Eve, leading to the arrest of villager David Carlson, 29.

This is the first official statement from the police regarding the events around the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop two days ago.

According to the statement, Carlson appeared inebriated and began leaning into an occupied police cruiser holding an officer attempting to disperse revelers following the New Year’s Ball Drop. When asked to back away from the car, Carlson failed to do so, pushing back when an officer attempted to open the car door, the statement says. According to the statement, when the officer opened the door with taser in hand, Carlson grabbed the taser from the officer and fled into the crowd.

Officers pursued Carlson, who struggled against the officers and another officer “deployed their Taser unsuccessfully,” according to the statement, after which Carlson got up and ran into the crowd.

At 12:52 a.m., police responded to a call regarding a possible physical altercation at the Gulch on Dayton Street, where they found Carlson and took him into custody without incident. The arresting officer was RJ Hawley. Carlson remains in the Greene County Jail pending the prosecutor’s review of the case.

Hale said today he would not comment at this time regarding other factors involved in the New Year’s Eve events, including why police attempted to disperse revelers with police cars blaring sirens and lights at eight minutes past midnight, and who was responsible for that decision. Issues regarding the evening’s events will be addressed at Council’s regular meeting tomorrow evening, Jan. 3, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers, according to Hale.

Earlier, Aaron Willis, a friend of Carlson’s, said in an interview with the News that his leg had been hit by the taser when he stepped in front of his friend after he saw Carlson struggling with police and being tased. Willis said he has a mark on his leg from the taser.

Updated: 10:40 a.m., Monday, Jan. 2

According to longtime villager Theresa Thinnes on Monday morning, Jan. 2, her son, Aaron Willis, was one of the two young men tased by Yellow Springs police on New Year’s Eve, although Willis was only tased in the leg by accident because he came between Officer Allison Saurber and David Carlson, who was her target.

Carlson was later arrested and he remains in the Greene County Jail.

Villager Anna Carlson, no relation to David, who works at the Emporium, said on Monday morning that she was about 10 feet away from the event and saw the man being tased.

“I saw an officer grab the head of the man and throw him to the ground,” she said, and when the man attempted to get up, Officer Saurber tased him, at which point he fell to the ground again.

“It was upsetting. I felt unsafe,” Carlson said.

At that point, people began getting between the man and the police in an attempt to protect him, according to bystander Ali Thomas.

As of Monday morning, Police Chief Dave Hale has not been available to confirm details or speak about the incident, nor has the incident report been completed, according to Dispatcher Rita Check. According to Village Manager Patti Bates on Monday morning, the chief is currently reviewing the information and will speak later in the day.

On Monday, Village Council member Marianne MacQueen shared with the News a letter she wrote to Council regarding the incident, which she witnessed.

“The negative turn of events last night was caused by the inappropriateness of police action,” the letter concludes. “Fortunately, and apparently, no one was seriously hurt. The Village Council of Yellow Springs needs to understand why this happened. But more importantly we need to make sure that it does not happen again. Did this represent a single breakdown in communication, or is it representative of inadequate training and communication within the Yellow Springs Police Department? What needs to happen to change this? I appreciate that Patti Bates and Chief Hale will be providing a report on this matter at our Council meeting on Tuesday. I also request that Council be provided with a detailed plan to insure that ALL our officers learn how to respectfully treat peacefully congregated citizens, in a way that contributes to the sense of community rather than engenders fear and antagonism.”

Council meets Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers at Bryan Center.

The News will update this post after speaking with the chief.


Updated: 5:41 p.m., Jan. 1

The annual Yellow Springs New Year’s Ball Drop on Saturday night turned from peaceful to chaotic and “horrifying,” according to several participants, after Yellow Springs police drove through the crowd with sirens blaring, reportedly tasing two participants, one by accident.

The police action took place at the village’s longstanding Yellow Springs Ball Drop, when at midnight a ball is dropped on Short Street as villagers celebrate the beginning of a new year.

“What started out peaceful turned into a horrible situation,” according to villager Jennifer Berman, who is special assistant to Antioch College president for community life and restorative justice. Berman was in the crowd when local police began trying to drive slowly through the crowd in an apparent attempt to disperse revelers at 12:08 a.m.

“All of a sudden there were police cars with sirens blaring and lights flashing,” said villager Michael Brown, who, with his wife, Anita, has attended the event for about 25 years. The police presence seemed to suggest “that we were doing something wrong,” Berman said, but the event had been peaceful and joyous.

It was one of the largest New Year’s Eve Ball Drop crowd that Michael Brown had seen, perhaps over 1,000 people. Brown attributed the big turnout to the mild weather.

People became very agitated by the police presence, according to Berman, and many drifted into the street in a nonviolent attempt to block the police cars. When people approached the police, asking why they were driving through the crowd, “the police were very harsh and brusque with people,” according to Anita Brown, who said, “I saw no one being disrespectful.”

Kurt Miyazaki, a co-owner of the Emporium, said he tried to talk to the three police officers in two squad cars as they moved slowly through the crowd. He was not sure of the identity of the officers, two men and one young woman.

Miyazaki said that in a peaceful way he asked police what they were doing, and warned that they could be provoking people. One officer responded that they were just doing their job, while the others did not respond. The police were not talking to people in the street, he said, but were simply driving their cars with the sirens blaring.

According to Berman, when she asked a local officer at the scene why police were attempting to clear the street so abruptly, the officer, whose name she didn’t know, said this was standard practice for the New Year’s event. However, Anita Brown, who has attended the event for about 25 years, said she has never witnessed it before.

Villager Karen Gardner said an officer told her that the police were just doing their job, and that the clearing of the street had been ordered by Sergeant Josh Knapp, although he was not at the event.

According to Gardner, also a longtime attendee of the ball-drop who was in the crowd, one young man approached a local police car saying he wanted to help and was told to back off or he’d be arrested. Someone pushed against the police car door and the officer exited the car, after which several officers chased the man down the street.

Ruth Hoff, who is married to Miyazaki, was close enough to see a struggle break out beside the door of the police car when one officer suddenly burst out of the car and chased the young man. Miyazaki said he saw the man being thrown to the ground near the entrance to the Little Art Theatre. He was one of many people who were trying to insert themselves between the police and the man in a way that was not confrontational, he said. However, he left soon with his son and didn’t witness a tasing.

In a statement on Sunday, Village Manager Patti Bates said, “I don’t have as much information as I would like to have,” and therefore could not comment. Police Chief Dave Hale was not available and the official report on the incident was not complete, according to Dispatcher Randall Newsome.

Miyazaki said he holds the police responsible for the chaotic turn of events.

“It was a typical New Year’s Eve, people were hugging and partying,” he said. “The police created a dangerous situation and then escalated. It could have come out much worse.”

Local police called in back-up, and when Gardner left the scene at about 12:45, about six police cars, including the Greene County Sheriff’s Department and Beavercreek Police, were on the scene, with at least 10 officers present.

A more detailed report on the incident will appear in the Jan. 5 Yellow Springs News.


21 Responses to “New Year’s celebration turns ugly with police actions”

  1. YS just needs a mature Chief who invests himself in the community. Leadership by example with Community Policing is key. Hiring more mature officers is necessary and stop the dept. from being a training springboard for door kicking mentality is necessary. Hiring a “home grown” chief didn’t work before Chief Hale and isn’t feasible economically. Finding a Chief who can lead by example and teach the Dept. community policing and interaction is the key. More walking and talking than driving and watching.

  2. I was top 2 for Police Chief position several years ago long before Chief Hale was hired. My position on the Need for community policing, Officers getting out of the cruisers walking the beat and getting to know the residents was not the winning answer. Just reading the articles on this incident I have to ask why an off site Sgt. ordered the streets cleared only 8 minutes after midnight when the people weren’t obviously doing anything wrong. The armchair quarterback says I would have had myself and the Officers in the area on foot to monitor, interact with public and be a part of the community and not manage the community. Also with an event this large, where was the Chief?

  3. Diane Chiddister says:

    Thanks, Robin. We did try to stay on top of developments, as villagers clearly cared a lot about this event. We appreciate your comments, and those of others on this page.

  4. Robin Suits says:

    Thank you, Diane, for doing such an excellent job reporting on this incident and its aftermath. I really appreciate how you and your staff began reporting on this so quickly and have been so fair and thorough. Your coverage has been head and shoulders above other Dayton area media outlets. You are demonstrating the community service attitude that we want in all our local institutions, including the police.

  5. Deb Simon says:

    I’ve lived just a few miles from Y.S. all of my life and have attended many New Year’s events there. It has always been so fun, a special dinner at the Winds, then join ball drop. Well, we hadn’t even finished pouring our champagne just after midnight and I thought one of two things: (1) Bully Police doing a very dangerous and uncalled for “Tiananmen Square” type of clearing everyone out before they even had time to celebrate. (2) A true fear of a genuine terrorist activity in the area. We dumped our champagne and left. Either way it created panic and confusion. It ruined our New Year’s Eve celebration. Turns out the entire fiasco was inappropriate, very poorly handled by the police, and thank goodness the police did not cause a riot or a human stampede where people could have been trampled or run over by the cruisers. Whoever at the police station order such an outlandish ploy to use moving vehicles to break up a crowd just minutes after midnight but they should be under critical review as well as any officer who was involved driving a cruiser and physically using their vehicle as a potential deadly weapon to disburse the crowd for no good reason. I’m still in shock! It was disgraceful act by the police.

  6. Elizabeth Hepola says:

    It appears the leadership style and culture of the current police force is worfully out of touch with the people of Yellow Springs. An “Us vs Them” mindset will not work. Yellow Springs needs a force that is committed to Community Policing by friends and neighbors. Sounds like it’s time to clean house. Leadership starts at the top (the police who took the ugly actions surely must know what their chief wants in any given situation) A look into who is training and what they are training for is needed too. A militarized police force won’t cut it here.

  7. Arlo Ihrig says:

    This is so unacceptable. This type of behavior by police officers cannot be tollerared.

    The people giving and executing the order to disperse the crowd way they did should simply be fired. I am in no way anti-cop or anything, but the potential for someone to be injured or even killed comes from situations where unnecessary actions are taken like this.

    When I was young and growing up in YS, I remember the officers generally treating everyone with respect – even WHEN someone was actually doing something wrong. The officers knew a lot of the people around town and treated them like the neighbors they were. I personally think it’s a bad idea to hire officers that don’t live in YS.

    I hope this can be resolved with either replacement of personnel or proper training (by those willing to be trained, and not just memorizing what they’re supposed to say) so this never happens again.

  8. Jon Toelke says:

    I came up from Cincy to camp for the weekend at John Bryan state park. We shopped a bit and came into town NYE and watched a band at Peach’s. everyone kept telling us about the ball drop so we decided early that day that we’d check it out.
    I must say it was really, really fun. YS is such a great little town. Everyone is so friendly and genuine. Was great to see so many friends hugging and enjoying each other.
    We literally left the drop several minutes after midnight and walked back to my truck and headed to the campground. We did see several cops in cars down by the corner. In retrospect, I guess they were on their way to the crowd.
    We were so surprised to learn of the incident the next morning as we ate at the Sunrise Cafe.
    I’m sorry the residents of YS are dealing with this. I can’t imagine why something like this needed to happen. It was such a great night with so many smiles and so much laughter. I hope this issue finds some resolution.
    The one thing you DON’T need to worry about is it stopping a visitor like me from coming back. Such a great, great town. Fight for it and make the change happen.
    See ya soon!

  9. Grant Hackett says:

    An apology.
    Why has there been no apology for the manifestly harmful actions of the YSPD on New Year’s Eve?
    An apology tacitly recognizes the presence of respect.
    If I harm a person and then apologize for it, have I not also communicated respect for that person?
    The combined failures of Chief Hale, Patti Bates, and the YSPD police officers to apologize for the mistakes of New Year’s Eve night communicates to us, the Villagers, that we are not respected.
    How can we place our trust in public servants that do not respect us?
    How can public servants that disrespect the citizens of a community and are not capable of being trusted by those citizens serve and promote the health of that community?
    How can the health and well-being of the community survive and flourish with such public servants?
    Isn’t it time for significant change?

  10. Geoff Burkman says:

    The real question is who was the moron who instructed them to do this in the first place?

  11. Robin says:

    For the record, there isn’t really a consensus on the proper verb to use for the deploying a Taser. http://www.dailywritingtips.com/taser-or-tazer-tazing-or-tasering/

  12. Peter Frasca says:

    $900 a month for 2 bedrooms and 1 bath, and no employment opportunities to list. you make a good point!

  13. Peter Frasca says:

    drowning the kitten for drinking the milk — this should not have happened. i hope the community takes action!

  14. Sandy King says:

    This is so disturbing, yet, not surprising.. We have very few TRUE police officers left in town. To my mind, it’s not Police officers we need it’s Peace officers! We need to have them LIVE here to work here. AND we need to have a town that is representing all races, which is no longer the case. We need to remove the financial stranglehold real estate has put on the diversity of our town, as well. When I was growing up & as my children grew up here; not sure about other races, but we had a black police chief, several black officers, three black principals, a black fire chief, & many black medics & village workers. Those numbers are deliberately being dwindled down to zero, in my view. Now they come in from out of town, have no interest or negative interest in who we are as a town or our history & apparently want to dismantle what we’ve gained. Looks like we need to clean house & hire some local Peace officers, worthy of the title..

  15. Dalton King says:

    Wonderful point. I also find a source that improperly capitalizes “tazing” rather unreliable.

  16. Kate Mooneyham says:

    I’m glad the Yellow Springs News is on this, and look forward to the follow up interview with Chief Hale. Be dogged and relentless in the pursuit of truth, and a catalyst for change. Thank You!

  17. Barbara Mann says:

    This behavior by our police department is totally unacceptable! I wasn’t at the ball drop this year, but I have been there quite a few times in the past and it simply isn’t true that this has been “standard practice for the New Year’s event”. The police are supposed to “serve and protect” us. We pay their salaries and we certainly don’t pay them to break up a peaceful gathering that has been a long-time tradition in the Village. This was a pretty bad way to start out 2017!

  18. Doug Snyder says:

    My wife and I attended the annual Yellow Springs New Year’s Eve Ball Drop downtown. We arrived around 11:30pm. We ran into, and visited with, various friends and our younger daughter and her friends. The croud was quite upbeat and I witnessed nothing out of the ordinary. I have lived in Yellow Springs for thirty years, and have attended many of the “Timeless Square” events. Always fun.

    Until last night. Following the ball drop, my wife and I decide to go home and walked toward the village parking lot along Corry Street. We ran into sanother friend and were visiting with her on the downtown sidewalk. At sometime no later than 12:15 am, the first of several Village Police vehicles, the Ford Explorer, went past, sirens blaring and lights flashing. I was surprised, and wondered what brought this on. All I could think of was that the police presence for the safety of people on the street — because of a possible act of terrorism.

    The Police Ford Explorer made at least one “lap” of downtown, passing through the remaining crowd, and heading back in. There were also the standard Didge police cruisers. All with lights flashing.

    In retrospect, the Police driving through the crowd because an act of terrorism. Police terrorism. In my experience over the years, the post-ball-drop crowd has never been dispersed — at least that soon! There has never been a reason. There apparently was no reason last night other than on the whim of the Village Police. If anything, they created a dangerous situation for people legally enjoying themselves on the street following a normal New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. Sirens and flashing lights should be saved for true emergencies, and not to manufacture dangerous situations and create confusion with law abiding citizens. If nothing else, how can citizens respect police after facing such irresponsible use of “force”? (And a large vehicle driving through a crowd must count as “force.”)

    Police actions around the country have drawn fire for unjustifiable use of force in the past few years. I never expected such a thing happening in Yellow Springs. Somehow, I thought “we” would be smarter.

  19. Greg Gudorf says:

    Why would you intentionally try to block police cars? “many drifted into the street in a nonviolent attempt to block the police cars”

  20. Tom Blessing says:

    This is this kind of police action that gets people hurt or even killed. A couple of officers wanted to show off and push people around and is typical for “hot head” newbie cops. AKA Cowboys. For over 24 years people have done just fine without the need to clear the streets minutes after the ceremony in Yellow Springs. These 2 officers need to be released and the village should have a Chief that lives in town; this incident should be the catalyst that begins the discussion that brings about action along those lines.

  21. Brett A.M. says:

    Hey there’s a thousand drunk people having a fun peaceful time like they do every year. How about we cut it 22 minutes short and drive police vehicles through them, that wont cause any problems. Oh someone isn’t complying? We better taze them and then illegally order people to leave a public sidewalk. Officer Dent has routinely violated people’s rights including my own, he is on video last night ordering people on the sidewalk to go home and when people said this is a public space and we have rights he said “not right now.” He’s had this attitude personally with me before when he spied on a bonfire on private property with night vision goggles before harassing me and my friends for half an hour under false pretenses of chasing juveniles. YSPD needs a house cleaning.

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