Witnesses: UNC student heaved concrete at cops
Rocky Mountain News
November 9, 2001
By Joe Garner, News Staff Writer
Greeley – Two University of Northern Colorado students testified Thursday that a student accused of rioting heaved a concrete chunk toward police trying to break up a spring disturbance on campus.
But one also said the chunk was a futile gesture because it was too massive to be taken seriously as a missile.
Jason Daigneault, 19, a military dependant who grew up in Colorado Springs, is scheduled to testify today in Weld County District Court. He is being tried on a felony charge of engaging in a riot.
Two earlier trials stemming from the April 28 melee at the university ended in acquittals.
Derek Samuelson, deputy state public defender, said Daigneault “never threw rocks at police,” although his conduct was “obnoxious, profane and disrespectful.”
But Deputy District Attorney Marcelo Kopkow predicted in his opening statement that this trial will end differently: “This case is not about being vulgar or being a jerk. This case is about a crime.”
In testimony Thursday, Charles Akert, Daigneault’s roommate in a UNC dormitory, testified that the friends left a block party and bonfire on the edge of the campus about midnight that Saturday night. They wanted to distance themselves from the riot police trying to disperse the crowd, who were drinking and chanting profanities.
“I knew I didn’t want to get in the middle of this,” Akert said.
For about 90 minutes, the two men visited friends off campus, Akert testified. Back on campus, some 1,500 rioters set five or six smaller bonfires as the disturbance spread through the university neighborhood, causing $40,000 in damage.
When the two men returned to their dormitory, about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, they found police cars parked outside it, although the residence hall was a bout a half-mile from the block party.
Akert said he and Daigneault, who had drunk about two beers apiece, joined other students outside Wilson Hall jeering and cursing police. Some of the students were wearing pajamas because they had been roused by the commotion in the street.
Another Wilson Hall resident, Josh Schutz, identified Daigneault as one of the blurred forms on a videotape he had filmed as police tried to break up the crowd.
Schutz testified that his videotape showed Daigneault bending down to pick up a chunk of concrete – created when Daigneault dropped a large slab to smash it into pieces. Schutz also said he was “about 70 percent sure” a voice on the videotape saying “Bring it, bring it on” and “Come on” was Daigneault’s.
But Akert said Daigneault’s “Come on” should not be heard as a challenge to police. Instead, he testified, Daigneault was expressing frustration at the police who had shown up at the residence hall, even firing rubber bullets that shattered windows while some students were trying to sleep.
Akert described Daigneault’s heaving the chunk of concrete as a sign of alcohol-fueled frustration with the Greeley Police Department on what had begun as a mellow spring night.
“It didn’t go far,” Akert said, describing how the massive chunk traveled only a few feet.
In another snippet of videotape, Schutz said Daigneault could be heard saying, “I threw three rocks at them, and they pegged me.”