Tucson police chief speaks out about riots after U of A game

Posted: Updated:
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

TUCSON Ariz. -- The Tucson Police Chief is reviewing close to 150 hours of police footage, surveillance cameras, and cellphone video to investigate his department’s response to the riots on the University of Arizona campus Saturday night.

Immediately after the Wildcats’ loss in the NCAA tournament, hundreds of fans gathered in the streets and seemed to ignore officers’ demands to disperse.

Chief Roberto Villaseñor said officers tried for more than 30 minutes to get the fans to leave the area. Video captured fans in the streets throwing bottles at officers, jumping on police cruisers and lighting what appeared to be fireworks.

“We had several officers hit by bottles and cans,” Villaseñor said. “People threw smoke bombs and that’s when it turned to chaos.”

Officers were captured on video pelting members of the crowd with pepper balls and spraying them with aerosol canisters.

Cellphone video also captured one woman who appears to be manhandled by a Tucson police officer in the midst of the chaos.

The chief said he understands the concern stemming from that video.

“People are going to question, ‘what was she doing that deserved that kind of reaction?’” Villaseñor said. “We’re gonna ask that same question. But we’re gonna get the answers and we’re gonna find out was it justified or was it not.”

Dozens of officers on scene were wearing helmet cameras, including the officer involved in that particular altercation. The video is now vital to the department’s investigation.

“We’re human, if we did something wrong, we’ll hold ourselves accountable,” Villaseñor said. “But you’ve gotta give us time to look at all the facts.”

The chief expects to release his findings next week.