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FIRST ON 3: Wilmington Police use pepper spray to break up Downtown Halloween crowd Saturday

READ MORE: FIRST ON 3: Wilmington Police use pepper spray to break up Downtown Halloween crowd Saturday

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Halloween is a time to dress up with your friends and snap some pictures of creative costumes, but after this year's Halloween in downtown Wilmington, some people are reliving their weekend from a YouTube video.

A number of videos are floating around YouTube of what Wilmington Police officers say was a rowdy crowd late Saturday night and early Sunday morning. In the videos you can see a large crowd of people hanging outside the bars right after closing time. The crowd is chanting, "U-S-A!"

Lt. Ed Pigford says police officers tried to tell people to start moving out of the area, but were unsuccessful. Pigford says the crowd of people jumping up and down had the potential to be violent.

After numerous attempts, officers released pepper spray into the air, not at any people, but to get people moving.

"We're trying to avoid a mob mentality, and we're trying to avoid injury by trying to split these crowds up as quickly as we can," Pigford said. "If you allow these crowds to form, we've all seen video of college-type crowds. We've all seen YouTube videos of them turning vehicles over, breaking windows and tearing down signs."

Pigford says about 8,000 people were on Front Street Saturday night. He also says only one woman sought treatment from the pepper spray.

Pigford says that use of pepper spray or any physical means of getting people under control is a last resort, but when there are a lot of people who are heavily intoxicated, it's hard to get people to obey what they say.

To watch the videos, click here:

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


...and of course, you know...

....what's going on at the other side of that mob, right? Was one of the two officers the senior officer in command, the guy who had to make the decisions? No, there's no way for you to know that. Did you consider that the two officers were possibly being summoned to one end of the crowd to organize forces for a clearing operation?

Directors in Hollywood spends tens of thousands to make sure that they get a scene covered from every angle, to show everything the viewer needs to see.

In Wilmington, grainy, street level cellular phone videos shot in darkness from right inside the mob or from the distant edges tell the ENTIRE STORY story, right?


the way i see it if i had any company that visits usually if they start to act up, i would ask them to either settle down or please leave regardless if they are drunk or not before i would break out a can of pepper spray .

which anyone that was civil or with common sense would do.

actually these cops and the city of wilmington are lucky.

if these kids where actually really drunk and disorderly then alot of people could have been hurt or killed by people stampeding or property damage by flipped cars .

as with during big events in others cities "basketball games" could you imagine pepper spraying a big crowd of people like that with them all riled up?

you just don't do that unless you got riot gear on.

next time they need to ask .


I can not believe the comments of how the bars support the local economy. I'm sorry, this is an excuse only if you are a drunk. Too many people are behaving badly in the downtown dist. I support tighter control of the bars. When these drunks that are let out, they are out into the streets and on the roads where they are a danger to the rest of us. I think the economy will survive if a few bars where to close and tighter restrictions applied. How much revenue is turned away due to the drunken reputation of the downtown area? Don't suport drunks support business.
400(+) drunks aginst a handful of cops equal a response that was given. Go Wilmington PD.

So we need more enforcement????

My business is getting those drunks home SAFELY. When those drunks get out they are being released into a TAXI STAND. Oh wait, there are personal vehicles parked where I should be. Is yours one of them???? Enforce the taxi laws and get the unregulated vehicles off the roads and the drunks will get into the taxis and home safely.

As to economy I make 50,000+ a year from those drunks which I spend into the local economy. 155 cabs 387+ drivers = $1,162,500 + spent on taxi cabs a year from those bars spent right back into the economy..... not to mention the wages and taxes paid by the bars. Did you know if we towed out the personal vehicles in the taxi stands the city would be looking at another million at least a year in impound fees alone?


What? You are crazy!

Name one business downtown (besides tattoo shops) that make bring in even half the money most bars downtown do? Can't think of one? Really? Thats because they don't exist, and if you think that one does you are a complete fool and should have your voting rights revoked.

right on

i agree 150%

Bars and restaurants are big

Bars and restaurants are big business downtown and the ones that are not good close. If you do not like the $6billion in economic impact the college students provide to new hanover and surrounding counties then I guess let's get rid of an institution that has been here for 50 years and is a leader in marine biology among other things. I can't believe we are arguing about this considering it was a peaceful and patriotic assembly of young adults. I was thrilled to see such a chant to start. When is the last time you haters showed any outspoken patriotism?


...why so serious?

Let's face it, if the

Let's face it, if the Wilmington downtown nightlife went away, a very stable revenue stream for local businesses would simply vanish. As much as people complain about the kids downtown, they ought to realize how much the local economy RELIES on money spent downtown by the local student body. Young folks get rowdy, that's how it is, take the corncob from out your behind and let folks have some fun.


You have got to be kidding. The bars and late night munchie cafe's for drunks are the ones benefiting from the local student body.

The cities taxes that pay for all the Police to BABYSIT all you drunks is NOT worth the limited revenue stream to a few businesses.

Clean up downtown SAFFO. Its turned into a mini Jacksonville. Get rid of the tattoo parlors and trashy bars. Maybe you would actually get nice businesses in there again and a HOTEL for you convention center. Next thing you know we will have massage parlors down there.

the words of a true drunk.

the words of a true drunk.

Woo-hoo! I'm-a true American! I support police violence!

Granted, the crowd could have gotten out of hand eventually and was clearly a situation that the police needed to get under control. However, the police could have given a warning to disperse. Police are supposed to use physical means as a last resort, not a first option. Announcing over a megaphone or pa system that the area would needed to be cleared would get some people out. Announcing that they were planning on spraying the crowd would get most, if not all, of the people out. Instead, they sprayed the whole area. Forget the people waiting in line to get some Pizza from the all night I <3 New York Pizza restaurant. Forget people traversing the street, trying to get to their cars or taxis. Forget people with asthma who could have violent reactions to breathing in pepper spray. Just go ahead and spray the crowd down, and baton anyone who asks you why you're doing it (witness report, though officially unconfirmed). And I can't believe the ignorance on display in the comments. Some of you are literally applauding violence and calling for more. "Keep doing that thing you do WPD, until the day comes that you do it to me, then I'll call unfair as well."

thank you thank you!

I am so glad to see someone else on here making a legitimate response. I 100% agree, one thing most drunk college kids don't want is police confrontation. ALL THEY HAD 2 DO WAS ASK!!!!!! I was there with my husband, right before it happened. Those kids were just having fun! Showing their pride for their country. Yeah they were a little drunk it was halloween! They never once asked the crowd to disperse. That's all it would have taken. Apparently our police force needs more training on how to deal with large crowds! Violence begets violence, riot training 101! That was the fastest way to start a problem. To all of you who agree with unnecessary violence, like he said when it happens to you you'll be singing another tune!

pepper spray

The crowd looked harmless! USA..Chant is by far a cry for violence!The city knows how crowded this area gets and did not prepare well enought!They simply panicked way to soon!Out numbered and hardly had the means to control a crowd!They could have done more harm than good!Its a wake up call for the city to get up to date on crowd controll and train officers to deal with these situations better!I would much rather have a crowd Chanting and having fun like this then to have them yell foul and violent things!Really WPD,I dont think you did enought before spraying into a harmless crowd!I hope this is dealt with instead of excusing this behavior!

Yea, no

The use of force continuum allows starting out with deadly force if the situation deems it necessary. You don't know what you are talking about. If an officer were to approach an armed suspect, by your logic they are supposed to use verbal commands and if that fails then use physical. Wrong, you use a force sufficient to deal with the threat that is presented. A crowd numbering in the hundreds allows for a physical force. Quit your bitching and try to make it through a BLET program and then deal with an ungrateful public.


Sorry but you are wrong. And no I do not need to take BLET because I have a college degree from a university in criminal justice with classes specifically geared towards crowd violence and riot prevention. You can't compare a armed suspect to a group of unarmed non violent college kids! There is a process in which a cop is supposed to go through when dealing with a situation! So you are saying it would have been ok for them to use their guns!!!!! I have a feeling that you need to take BLET over again, I really hope you're not a cop here. A crowd numbering in the 100's is not something you want to use physical force on unless absolutely necessary. violence begets violence, ill say it again. A cop is a mediator 1st, they are supposed to try and alleviate a problem using the least force necessary. I have plenty of friends in the force who have said this was unnecessary. and not proper protocol.

Again, no

Again I never suggested to use a weapon against the street party. I used it as an example where you may skip levels in the use of force continuum. I'm happy you have a CJ degree, that gives you zero on the street experience. I'll take your violence begets violence and top it with a show of force will make drunk college kids behave and disperse.


um actually not exactly. If the situation deems it necessary! It wasn't necessary! And that isn't what im saying at all, if a suspect is armed, then obviously it is a necessary situation and that was a really stupid supporting argument! An armed suspect and a group of drunk college kids are two completely diff things. oh fyi don't have to take BLET training it's called a college degree in criminal justice with a classes geared specifically to group violence! I wow you need to go back to class and learn what situation calls for what action. A good cop would be able to disperse the crowd without force, considering no one was armed, or fighting, or arguing with the police. I have a feeling you also agree with the police who killed that kid over the xbox! I have nothing against our police force, MOST of them do a great job and happen to be good friends of mine. I have a problem with poor training setting them up for a bad situation. Study harder and come back to me

guesty is incorrect

"A crowd numbering in the hundreds allows for a physical force."

WRONG. Physical force is only appropriate in the case that there is an obvious threat of physical violence or to prevent physical violence. By your logic it is permissible for the police to pepper peaceful crowds with bullets. Oh and your little community college 'BLET' training is quite frankly, pathetic if it teaches you otherwise. For Chrissakes, we couldn't even treat people like that in the Military.

Escalation of Force/Force Continuum doesn't work the way you think. you can't just 'jump' or 'skip' levels of force... you step up the force to the MINIMAL level of escalation needed to subdue the problem; ie you don't "bring a gun to a fistfight" so to speak.

That being said, there was no destruction of property, violence, or hostility taking place that night... verbal warnings via megaphone/lights/PRELIMINARY WARNING of CS gas deployment (yes there WAS CS gas there, I am quite familiar with pepper spray and CS, and had it in my mouth) would have ALL been appropriate initially, but the LEOs instead decided to cowboy it up a bit and just go for the gusto.

Ask yourself what would have happened if some 20 year old girl with Asthma waiting for a slice of pizza at the shop would have geeked out and died? Or if some kid would have been severely injured from trampling injuries because of the crowd escaping?


And it worked

They sprayed, the crowd dissipated and it prevented physical violence. I never said anything about shooting bullets into peaceful crowds and that isn’t what happened. You can and do skip levels on the use of Force Continuum depending on the threat. The sounds of the police sirens going off, the flashing blue lights of the patrol cars and the verbal commands from the officers to disperse were ignored. The police acted properly and dealt with an unruly crowd that failed to follow a lawful order to disperse.
You ask about a 20 year old girl or the kid getting trampled because of the crowd escaping? Personal responsibility comes to mind. She would be in the wrong place at the wrong time and should have left. Same for the "trampled kid"

Your not listening, they

Your not listening, they never gave an order to disperse!!!!!!!! not once! I was walking past when it happened. they never told the kids to stop, or leave. Or warned them they they were going to pepper spray them, they just did it! If they had of said hey leave or were gona spray you a good majority of them would have left.


Oh yea, I'm sure Bobbie and Suzie would have left if asked. Not. I would be willing to bet there was a verbal command to disperse before anything was sprayed.

Reply to compliant guesty

Hey the SS announced what they were spraying too, right before they turned on the Zyklon B!

This crowd was loud, and

This crowd was loud, and inebriated , but was by no means out of control. It was not anarchy set forth onto Wilmington streets just some people having a rowdy time that could have been handled better by everyone involved. I will say that by closing Front street from dock to princess and creating an almost festival like atmosphere with walking traffic and giving the crowd a larger place to gather definitely enabled this way more likely to happen.

LOL@ a bunch of privileged suburban kids acting as if they

are now civil rights martyrs. The youtube comments are hysterical. So Aaron and Amber had to wipe their eyes, put down their beers and go home. You'll live.

LOL! You hit the nail on

LOL! You hit the nail on the head. How dare anyone keep this children from their drunken celebration. Of course, if even one of these kids got hurt when the crowd became unruly, the families would be yelling "where were the police?"

LOL@ a bunch of privileged suburban kids acting as if they

Wilmington has suburbs???? Now that is funny

This was completely uncalled

This was completely uncalled for, the section of street was blocked off, people were dancing in the street. It would be one thing if there were rioting and violence, but it was a crowd of dancing kids chanting "USA! USA!". Just last week on October 22nd was the National Day Of Protest Against Police Brutality, and this is a prime example of police going far beyond necessary means in order to show dominance. The police are here to serve and protect, not control innocent people by force. Not to mention there was no warning. They did not warn the people that they were going to do this, they just unleashed it. Just look at a comment from one of the videos:

"This was complete and utter b******! I too was out there, dancing in the street. The next thing I know I was coughing and choking and my face and lungs were on fire. I saw one guy fall and get trampled and then I got stepped on by one of the cops horse. There was never a warning, just gas! I've seen much much larger crowds and mobs after sporting events that were handled better. This was a peaceful celebratory crowd of young people. And they wonder why cops get a bad name....."


I was visiting a friend in town this weekend. After spending a night out having fun, supporting the local economy, I exited the club at closing time. I stood around looking for my friend and in less than a minute the coughing and choking began.

The clubs had just emptied. Of course there were a lot of people there. It was Halloween.

The Wilmington police acted terribly. Cops on horses were antagonizing people who were complaining about the pepper spray. It was a really pathetic scene. Residents should not stand for this.


at a bar is not doing very much to support the local economy.

Us residents are tired of the obnoxious drunks downtown.