Aug 312004
 
Authors: Ryan Riggen

Editor’s note: The names of juveniles in this article have been

changed for legal reasons.

Boys at Turning Point Boys Residential Treatment Center awoke

coughing and choking on tear gas on Aug. 21.

Gas was deployed by Fort Collins Police Services in order to

break up a riot on Bluebell and Plum streets, and it eventually

reached the bedrooms of the boys at Turning Point, 801 South

Shields St.

“I felt a little weird because they said there was teargas

outside and when I went outside my eyes hurt and my throat was

killing me,” said Steve, 17, a Turning Point resident. “I had to

wrap my shirt around my head and I almost got hit by a car.”

Turning Point is a nonprofit organization that is currently

housing 29 boys for a variety of reasons. Some of the residents

live at Turning Point because they have no family or have

incarcerated parents. Other residents are there for committing

petty crimes.

“The only warning I heard came over the police loudspeaker,”

said Doug Meyer, a staff member working the overnight shift on the

riot night. “They didn’t come here and warn us.”

Meyer attempted to close all the building’s windows because he

could see the police were only about 50 yards away. Within 20

minutes of the police shooting the tear gas, the building began to

fill up with gas.

The gas leaked through Meyer’s office window, which is located

on the building’s west side. Gas also came through other windows in

the building, including one in a boy’s room.

“Guys were coming out of their rooms with shirts over their

faces,” Meyer said. “Some were tripping.”

Meyer’s first plan was to cross the street in an attempt to get

away from the gas, but he soon noticed the gas was moving in that

direction. He and another staff member decided to get away from the

gas and began loading the boys into the facility’s passenger

van.

“We loaded 22 people in a 15-person van and went to the Shell

station down the street,” Meyer said. “We had to leave some boys

behind and come back for a second trip.”

Meyer said they remained at the Shell station for about two

hours. He walked back to the facility himself about an hour after

evacuating and talked to the police. He received permission to

check out the facility’s condition and went inside to find that the

gas was still really thick inside. He opened all the windows to air

the building out.

“Even when we got back there was still tear gas in here,” said

Peter, 17, a Turning Point resident. “There was a rush of tear gas

when we walked in the house.”

Meyer said one of the boys had to seek medical attention related

to the tear gas’ effects on Sunday but could not go into specifics

because of the boy’s age.

“People affected us and didn’t even know it; we would have never

experienced tear gas,” Peter said. “We have young kids here that

might have been traumatized. We have fire drills and tornado drills

but we don’t have tear gas drills. It sucks seeing other

(roommates) have to go through it.”

Rita Davis, Fort Collins Police Services spokesperson, said the

police did not go door to door to warn people about the gas because

of the riotous condition.

” (Police officers) don’t have the ability to go door to door

because they are trying to control the crowd,” Davis said. “The

police announced over the P.A. system and gave residents time to

close windows.”

Meyer said the boys sleeping on the second floor of the

three-story building thought he was playing a prank when he tried

to wake them up. The boys who live in the building sleep on the

second and third floors.

“The third floor was panicky because the tear gas woke them up,”

Meyer said. “The third floor was a lot worse than the second.”

Meyer also said people driving by the boys when they were

walking back to the facility early Sunday morning were yelling and

threatening them. He said he was very proud of the boys, many of

whom were about 15 years olde, for not responding to the

taunts.

“On the walk down Shields people driving down the roads were

yelling things at us like ‘freshies’ and ‘rushies,'” Steve said.

“The kids (yelling) looked wasted and they probably were.”

Peter’s view of CSU did not change as a result of the riot and

tear gas, but he did voice his displeasure with how the situation

was handled.

“I think it’s a normal college; I don’t think any different of

CSU but they could have handled it better than getting resolved

with tear gas,” he said. “I think 2 out of 3 people overreacted –

the rioters and the police with their tear gas. I think more people

should be held accountable (by the university) for their actions.

There were a lot here that were affected.”

The building that houses the boys is called the Newton Center,

and Rose Quinn, therapist and program coordinator at Turning Point,

said it houses 33 boys when full.

“We’re a boys residential treatment program for boys ages 14

to18,” Quinn said.

Some other residents of the surrounding area were affected by

the tear gas used to disperse the crowd.

“I have heard of some people who were concerned who were not

participants in the riot but were gassed,” Davis said. “It’s

unfortunate but it happens.”

Tre, 17, a Turning Point resident, was upset with the police for

using tear gas.

“I was pissed at the police for using tear gas,” Tre said. ” I

just don’t want to get any more tear gas.”

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