What began as a routine call about a loud, off-campus party in Northwest Washington quickly escalated into a full-blown confrontation between police and a group of American University students early yesterday morning.
When the fracas ended -- about a mile away from the house and outside the 2nd District headquarters -- 11 students had been arrested, three had to be treated for injuries and a District police officer was nursing a bite in the leg.
Yesterday, students accused the police of using unnecessary force, beating two in the group, and in general responding belligerently to a situation that they said required nothing but a warning to disperse.
Sgt. Joe Gentile, a police spokesman, said he could not comment on any of the claims made by the students, but that the department will investigate the incident. He said officers, responding to complaints from a neighbor, first went to the house in the 2600 block of Wisconsin Avenue NW at 2:25 a.m. and asked the students to lower the music.
Police were called again to the house soon after, and this time officers at the scene arrested three people for disorderly conduct and two others for interfering with officers.
Some time later, it was not clear when, 25 to 30 "loud and boisterous" students showed up at the station house and were ordered to leave, Gentile said.
That, said Gentile, is when "the altercation broke out." He said police units on patrol were called to the station house to help control the situation.
The three students who were hurt suffered minor injuries and were treated and released. One officer was bitten in the leg.
The party, hosted by six American University students who live in the two-story house, began at 9 p.m. and still had 40 or 50 people in attendance in the early hours of the morning.
Gentile had only sketchy details of the incident, and accounts of what occurred next were provided by eight students, most of whom were interviewed separately.
Several officers entered the house and ordered the occupants to turn off the music and disperse. One of the students, Alex Jennings, 20, was handcuffed and placed under arrest.
In quick succession, two others were arrested, John Moore, 22, and Robert Levin, 20.
Moore and Levin were placed inside a patrol wagon that had arrived on the scene.
The arrests agitated the crowd, which had now formed outside the house and, in the words of one student, it was "pretty bananas."
Levin said police hit Jennings after putting him in the patrol wagon.
After Jennings and the others were placed in the wagon, one student, Colleen Williams, 20, was arrested when she approached an officer and, according to one account, placed her hand on his arm.
The arrest of Williams, several students said, was what led to the full-blown fight.
Williams was forced face down onto the hood of a police car, held by an officer's forearm to the neck, and handcuffed, according to the students' account.
"People were going nuts, somewhat understandably, somewhat foolishly," said Laurie Fitch, 20, a resident of the house.
After the officers left, students decided to go to the 2nd District headquarters on Idaho Avenue NW to file a complaint. Police estimated the crowd at 30 to 40 people, but the students said there were no more than 15 or 20.
Officers at the station told them how to file a complaint and then ordered them out.
About 10 officers followed the group outside. Witnesses said the fight began when one student, David Ortmann, exchanged shoves with an officer.
The 11 arrested were charged with disorderly conduct. The three who were injured were taken to D.C. General Hospital, where they were treated and released.