Oxford police continue investigations into Square violence during Alabama weekend

Posted on Sep 18 2018 - 9:37pm by Slade Rand

Fights at The Lyric Oxford and other bars in town drew police attention this past weekend, and Oxford Police Department is still investigating an incident that occurred at The Annex Oxford that left a Holmes Community College student in “serious condition.”

“Everybody had issues (Saturday) night. Every club, I think, had fights in it — it wasn’t just one area,” Oxford Police Chief Joey East said.

OPD made 40 arrests for public intoxication throughout the weekend, five of which were accompanied by simple assault charges. A handful of OPD’s arrests were made on Van Buren Avenue between South 10th and South 11th Streets, according to East.

Crowds gather on the Square on Saturday night after Ole Miss’ loss to Alabama. Photo by Haleigh McNabb

Around 11:30 p.m. Saturday night, Oxford police responded to a crowd of people fleeing The Lyric Oxford after a fight broke out among attendees of a party that Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity hosted at the venue. East said partygoers initially reported shots fired inside of The Lyric, and officers entered the venue expecting to confront a shooter. Though these reports were false, officers then assisted The Lyric’s security staff in clearing the venue.

“No arrests were made inside The Lyric,” East said. “There were several arrests made outside, but I couldn’t (say) if any of (those arrested) were visiting The Lyric or (were) in The Lyric that night.”

The Lyric’s general manager, Lindsay Dillon-Maginnis, was on duty at the venue Saturday night and said she shut down the party immediately after the fight broke out. She said the incident began as one altercation and that she then saw it grow to “maybe five fights, simultaneously.”

“When the fight happened, we flipped the lights on and ended the party,” Dillon-Maginnis said. “The situation unfolded as people panicked — because it was a large fight — and … used all of our exits, which frightened people.”

She said The Lyric has a “zero-tolerance fighting policy” and that the fraternity will not be allowed to book any more events at The Lyric for the next calendar year. The Lyric met with the fraternity members multiple times before the party and employed 20 security guards, who arrived before doors opened to check bags and “wand” patrons upon entry. Dillon-Maginnis said no security guards were injured as they helped subdue the fight.

Crowds gather on the Square on Saturday night after Ole Miss’ loss to Alabama. Photo by Haleigh McNabb

“Long term, I don’t know what the answer is,” Dillon-Maginnis said. “I think this is a systemic problem with Oxford, not just The Lyric. But for this football season, we are done with game-day parties.”

The Lyric will not host any more parties on game days this fall, and Dillon-Maginnis said the venue plans to re-evaluate its security measures to prevent future incidents like the one on Saturday night.

Almost an hour after OPD officers and horses began clearing the streets outside of The Lyric, another group of officers responded to a report of a fight inside The Annex Oxford, a bar on the corner of Jackson Avenue East and South 10th Street. OPD Captain Hildon Sessums said bar security flagged down officers at their post on the Square at 12:11 a.m. Sunday to assist with a fight that had just broken out. Officers then entered the crowded bar and began clearing patrons from the scene.

“When officers went in, there was a male unconscious on the floor,” Sessums said.

Sessums said the victim was tended to by an Oxford Fire Department medical team stationed on the Square before EMS transportation arrived. The male victim was taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital before being transported to Regional One Health in Memphis where he remains in a “serious condition.”

“(EMS) arrived shortly after (the incident),” Sessums said. “Our transport time has them on the scene at 12:26 a.m. Sunday.”

Sessums said OPD made contact with the victim’s father after identifying him and that there have been no arrests made in this ongoing investigation. The victim is a student at Holmes Community College.

Oxford police fielded seven reports of simple assault and 33 reports of disturbing the peace this past weekend as well as making five arrests for simple assault and public intoxication. These reports came from all across town through Sept. 14-16, but East said his officers stationed on the Square were especially busy this weekend.

Oxford Police Chief Joey East discusses plans for areas of the Square to be considered a “downtown district earlier this year. File photo by Christian Johnson

He estimated 10,000 people crowded the Square on Saturday night, following the home football game versus Alabama. According to East, OPD’s Square detail was outfitted with approximately 20 officers and six horses to handle the crowd.

“When we have that many people, I wish we had 140 cops we could put out there,” East said.

East said OPD expects to make between 75 and 90 arrests during a home football weekend. According to East, what was unusual about this weekend was a report of shots fired near Hathorn Road. He said OPD’s regular patrol unit responded to a report of shots fired just before 8 p.m. Saturday.

“They responded immediately. They took over the scene, got with UPD and got a RebAlert out,” East said. “We were there within minutes.”

Sessums said OPD has not made any arrests in that ongoing investigation, but officers have uncovered a few leads and believe they have identified a suspect’s name. The Daily Mississippian will continue to report on these developing stories.

“You learn something every time you have mass crowds like that — they’re just so unpredictable,” East said.