Melee broke out on campus early last Friday morning (March 28), with police and EMS responding to more than a dozen students fighting, leaving at least three maced by campus security.
UT’s executive board is looking into the fight, especially amidst rumors and unfounded reports of a gun discharge, according to Assistant Director of Security Kevin Howell.
After midnight Thursday, six reports of fights were called into security within a 10-minute period. During the same hour, one bogus narcotics call accompanied two false 911 calls from campus throughout the rest of the hour, Howell said.
He thinks the false reports were intended to distract campus security and stretch their resources thin, and he thinks it’s possible that all the reports of fighting were connected.
The fight in front of the Sykes College of Business was so significant that the arriving officers had to pool all their resources to cover it, pulling officers from responding to other reported fights.
By the time officers got to the center of the brawl, three students were still going at it, prompting security to mace them, Howell said.
According to Howell, security officers overheard one of numerous students involved with the fighting tell Tampa police that he was threatened with a gun during the fight. Follow-up investigations revealed inconsistencies in the story, however, said Howell.
There were also two reports of a loud noise, possibly gun fire, that evening: one phoned to security concerning Urso Hall, according to Howell, and another from a student who told The Minaret that she heard gunfire coming from behind her as she walked back to McKay from Vaughn.
Both of these reports, however, do not correspond to the time of the fighting, according to Howell and the student who spoke with The Minaret.
With no other corroboration of the student’s story of the threatening gun, and no direct reports of gunfire, Howell has called the claim “unsubstantiated.”
Nonetheless, the rumor of gun discharge during the fighting has generated extensive phone calls to the university, according to Howell, which might be one reason behind the investigation by the university’s executive board.
It is very unusual for UT’s chief body of administrators to meet over such a matter.
The Sykes Fight
Howell described the fight in front of Sykes as the largest of the year, from what he’s heard.
“We’ve had a few recently,” Howell said, “but this one has pushed the boundaries.”
The phone calls reported fights near McKay, the library and Plant Park, but the fight in front of Sykes was so serious when security arrived that the whole staff came to assist.
Howell said that numerous students, perhaps more than 15, were gathered around the fight when security arrived, but only three were still fighting by the time the mace was sprayed and the last of the fighting was interrupted.
“The belligerence of some of these students is out of control,” he said, confirming with near certainty that everyone involved was a UT student.
At least three of the students were treated by EMS for fighting injuries and exposure to mace.
He added that two were charged with misdemeanor battery by Tampa police, and at least five were referred to UT’s conduct board for offenses ranging from personal abuse to alcohol.