CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. — Four Penn State students have been charged with alcohol-related misdemeanors following a “massive” tailgate party outside Beaver Stadium prior to the Nittany Lions’ prime-time game with Ohio State on September 29.
Two Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement officers were working undercover that Saturday when it was reported that a large party was taking place in the middle of one of the parking lots, according to the criminal complaint. The officers located the party and around 2:45 p.m., entered through the perimeter, which was made up of vehicles and tents.
The officers were approached by a bouncer — one of 13 standing along the perimeter — who asked for identification and to see their wristbands, the criminal complaint says. The officers explained that they did not have wristbands and wanted to purchase them, in which the bouncer directed them to a person at the “main” entrance who was selling them for $10.
They then entered into the party, which had approximately 10 tents stocked with different alcoholic beverages. While inside the perimeter, the officers saw students continuing to enter, some of which were not being stopped for identification, according to the criminal complaint. They also observed students smelling salts to “bring you around if you drank too much” and multiple students “shotgunning” beer.
At approximately 4 p.m., uniformed officers attempted to disperse the party. As tailgaters refused, a State Police helicopter was called to hover over the scene. Video taken on the ground showed tents and other debris blowing wildly as people ran for cover. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the use of the helicopter to break up the party.
The original officers who went undercover conducted interviews with bouncers and those responsible for organizing the party. They spoke with 22-year-olds Joshua Spear and Connor Fitzgerald, two of the organizers in correlation with 18 other fraternities and sororities.
Spear and Fitzgerald admitted they were “in charge” of the party and admitted to planning and organizing the event.
Further investigation revealed that wristbands were sold prior to the party via Venmo and the party was under the name “Senior Tailgate.”
Officers obtained search warrants for the residences of Spear and Fitzgerald.
A search of Spear’s residence took place on October 9, which led to the seizure of an Apple iPad, a sketch of the PSU vs. OSU tailgate and blue wristbands, the criminal complaint says. During the search, Spear showed up at his residence in which an Apple iPhone and a MacBook with a charger were seized from his person.
Later that day, officers went to Fitzgerald’s residence to execute the search warrant. They seized a cellphone found in Fitzgerald’s possession and an Apple iPhone plus a MacBook Air Laptop with a charger. He voluntarily provided his passwords to the officers in which they discovered, through Venmo, a large deposit of approximately $1,300 which was Fitzgerald’s “cut” from the party.
On January 2, officers received written statements from Spear and Fitzgerald.
In the statements, both men advised that they became aware of a tradition in which seniors involved in the Greek community set up a tailgate at home football games, two of which occurred on September 1 and September 29. They related that the organizers worked together to purchase items such as parking passes, tents, tables, speakers and generator rental, catering, DJ, cigarettes, snacks, water, soda, and outdoor games.
Spear and Fitzgerald added that the $10 wristbands were sold the mentioned items and stated that alcohol was not included in that cost.
In the statements, they mentioned that two other students, 22-year-old Mark Lunney and 21-year-old Jared Bauer, helped organized the event.
All four individuals face charges of unlawful acts relative to malt or brewed beverages and licensees, unlawful sales of liquor and selling or furnishing liquor or malt or brewed beverages to minors.