âÄúChaosâÄù is how Ricky Collins described the scene late Friday night, when word of gunshots triggered police to use tear gas to evacuate the teenage audience at the University Radisson Hotel.
The frantic ending forced the more than 900 âÄúBig BashâÄù attendees to flee the 16-plus event that was intended to be a fun and safe night out.
Party organizers Collins, 18, Nino Powers, 19, and Brayshaun Gibson, 18, have been planning events under the moniker Soe-N-The Clouds Entertainment, for the past year. Prior to Friday, the group had four successful teen events at a variety of venues. They chose the Radisson to âÄúkeep it new.âÄù
The organizers said they felt this would be their best planned and smoothest party to date. But about three hours in (around 11 p.m.) some partygoers mistook a small fight and a popped balloon for gunfire.
When two University of Minnesota police officers hired for the event heard people screaming about gunshots, they were ushering an intoxicated minor outside, University police Chief Greg Hestness said.
At the possibility of gunshots, police worked quickly to disperse the crowd using âÄúpepper balls,âÄù which have an effect similar to Mace, Hestness said.
âÄúPeople got out however they could. I mean, people couldnâÄôt breathe and police were pushing them out,âÄù Collins said. âÄúIt was just kind of sad how people were treating these âÄ¦ kids.âÄù
Hestness said police do not have many options when dealing with such a large, panicked crowd.
In total, 16 University officers and 23 Minneapolis police squads responded to help with the crowd.
Hestness said no one at the event was arrested and no injuries were reported.
But according to Collins, some of the teens said they had asthma attacks and minor injuries as they fled the hotel.
âÄúWe understand that they come with the mentality that there is a gun in there, but we just feel like it could have been handled a little quieter,âÄù Collins said.
The chaos Friday wonâÄôt deter Soe-N-The Clouds Entertainment from future planning. The group is currently working on an even bigger party with other community organizations like MAD DADS, which aims to combat gang violence and drug use in its communities.
And while the group isnâÄôt looking to change much in its upcoming events, organizers have decided to do away with the balloons.
âÄúWe already talked about that,âÄù Collins said. âÄúNo balloons at all.âÄù