Police use pepper spray on ‘Welcome Week’ crowds at WMU

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KALAMAZOO, Mich.— Police attempting to control crowds of students and party goers in Kalamazoo early Sunday morning deployed pepper spray on a group of about 300-400 people.

The crowds were gathering near West Michigan Ave. and Euclid Ave. during welcome week at Western Michigan University. According to police, they used pepper spray to control the out-of-hand crowds. No injuries have been reported.

WMU_PEPPERSPRAYFOX 17 found several posts on social media from students claiming police used tear gas on crowds, but police say that was not the case.

Sgt. Matt Schemenauer with Kalamazoo Public Safety said police only chose to deploy the pepper spray after several failed attempts to verbally break up the crowd and some individuals began pelting officers with bottles.

"The crowd was throwing rocks and bottles at officers, two officers were struck, there was also report of damage to a vehicle," said Sgt. Matt Schemenauer with Kalamazoo Public Safety.

The crowds dispersed relatively quickly after the pepper spray was deployed, according to Shemenauer.

"I don't know what happened," said Noah Lancucki who witnessed the ordeal. "We weren't doing anything wrong, honestly there were a lot of people but I really don't know what we did wrong."

KPS brought on an addition 6-8 officers for patrols for 'Welcome Week' in anticipation of the larger crowds and parties with students returning back to Western Michigan University's campus.

"You know it's not all the students, it's normally just a few that are acting up and causing problems, but we slowly escalated our response until it unfortunately gets to pepper spray," Schemenauer said.

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16 comments

  • Tyler

    People were throwing beer bottles but police walked up to the small crowd just watching and I got directly sprayed from a foot or two away. There was no threat from us but they continued to walk up the steps and spray into the town home. It took at least two hours before I could open my eyes.

    • Tyler

      There was a huge crowd on the parking lot who moved to the hill. From there they threw glass bottles towards the police. There was a group of us on the steps to the townhome observing the whole situation. The police started to advance down the parking lot yelling get inside so everyone at the home started moving back but without warning they shot the spray at us. I was down in an instant puking and couldn’t see anything but the rest of the group said the police continued up the steps after spraying me and continued to spray into the house. We do not know why they decided to spray us but at that point I believe everyone on the hill ran away.

      • Tina

        Tyler, you should file a complaint with the police department and also check to see if WMU has a law service for students. Kalamazoo Public Safety has a history of police brutality regarding Western students. About a year ago, they got caught lying about some students so that they could enter their home and harass them, including throwing them to the ground. I’ve never heard of KPS using pepper spray to control unruly crowds in the high crime areas of Kalamazoo.

  • Mary

    I would like to know why it says the police didn’t use tear gas when I saw an officer walking down the road with a bottle of it in his hand. Tear gas is hard to miss, it does not come in the same container as pepper spray. So if they ONLY used pepper spray why were they carrying tear gas?

  • John

    Tyler, I was there and a bottle came from your group. If your going to tell a story, tell the whole story. You were given an opportunity to leave but instead threw bottles. Pepper spray is a small price to pay, I’m surprised you weren’t arrested. I think you should file a report with the police so they know who to charge. Its people like you who ruin it for the rest of us.

    Mary, tear gas is in canisters shot out of guns and basically smoke people out. Pepper spray is carried in a stand alone canister and is sprayed (liquid).

    • Tyler

      No bottles came from the crowd in the parking lot I was standing there on the steps watching the whole thing happen. If a bottle came from the house I didn’t see it but there was a period of time where nothing was happening and that’s then the police advanced. They told me to get inside when they walked up so I started backing up and they sprayed. I’m not saying pepper spray wasn’t necessary I’m just saying they sprayed the wrong crowd…

  • erin

    I can understand using pepper spray at people who are directly doing something wrong and need to be controlled. But to spray pepper spray INSIDE of the apartment building that I was in was absolutely unnecessary. I do not attend WMU and I happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. The cops were absolutely wrong and it is pathetic that the best way for them to control a crowd was by spraying pepper spray at innocent people. I have photos of my friend whose back was burned from the cops spraying it directly on her, when she was only trying to go inside the building like the cop told her to do. It’s sad that the cops aren’t owning up to their wrong in this situation.