Devin Jones, 20 arrested after clash between Grambling State University students and city fire crews (Source: Lincoln Parish Sheriff's Office)
GRAMBLING, LA (KSLA) -
Even before having a chance to review Grambling State University surveillance video, Grambling's city police chief is defending city firefighters who sprayed water at students earlier this week on campus. Chief Clark now tells us that the four firefighters were defending themselves from a barrage of snowballs, some of which were laced with rocks, glass and other hard materials.
Chief Tommy Clark said he had expected to see or receive those campus surveillance tapes by today, Friday, February 14th. But Clark said he was told by the university that they're not ready to be reviewed yet. So, he's still waiting.
And Grambling State University Public Relations Director Will Sutton told us there's no update on the case. He added that it's unlikely KSLA News 12 will ever get to see the tapes for ourselves. Grambling city Fire Chief David Wells told KSLA News 12 on Thursday that it's his understanding there are multiple surveillance cameras that could shed more light on exactly what happened late Tuesday night, February 11th, and into early Wednesday morning.
Here's what we do know: A total of 12 fire alarms were pulled in 6 different buildings, forcing city fire crews to come out to the Grambling State University campus. And it forced hundreds of people outside into the cold weather. On Wednesday, Grambling campus police arrested 20-year old student Devin Jones on charges of interfering with a firefighter and disturbing the peace. And Chief Clark said more charges could be coming.
Some students later told us that students pulled the alarms to bring more people outside for a snowball fight. Officials say at least 200 students were there at the time of the clash that unfolded between firefighters and 15 of those students who reportedly 'incited the situation.'
Chief Clark met with us immediately after attending a Friday morning meeting that Grambling Mayor Ed Jones had called with Chief Clark and Fire Chief David Wells to review the case. During our interview, Chief Clark made it clear some of those snowballs contained rock, glass and other material: "Which started causing injuries to the firefighters to the face and hurt them on body parts as the snowballs would strike."
Chief Clark said one of the two injured firefighters suffered two black eyes. One firefighter was treated at the hospital, while the other at a medical clinic, later.
Ice and snow that night had kept Grambling city police officers tied up, leaving only campus police at the scene, trying to help-out the four firefighters. "Of course they're trained to stay together and in the course of retreating back to the vehicles they thought it was best to spray water in the air to try to move the crowd back so they could seek cover and retreat back to the vehicles," said Clark.
But some Grambling students, who said they were there, had a much different take on what happened. "Yes, I was out there. I had fun. We were all out there. We had fun," said student Elizabeth Jenkins.
In fact, Jenkins told us that from what she saw, there was a playful atmosphere between students and the firefighters, not a clash. "Yeah, they was playing back with us like, 'you know how strong a fire hose is?' They didn't even have it turned all the way up. They was actually spraying it in the air." But Chief Clark said he's never heard that side of the story.
Then there's one student's reaction to the Grambling students being sprayed, that we originally aired on Wednesday. Senior Starlean Brandon said of the incident: "I was horrified. I felt like we was gone back to slavery days, you know, when I saw the firefighters, you know, spraying the kids now, even though the firefighters were black and the students were black."
It turns out, Brandon only had the reaction after watching the video later on social media.