Oneonta police seek tips on violent mob

Oneonta Police Department A mob of young men, one throwing a chair, is shown in this screenshot from April 11 surveillance video posted on the Oneonta Police Department Facebook page.

The Oneonta Police Department is working with SUNY Oneonta University Police to investigate a mob attack on at least one individual last month in the city of Oneonta.

The department posted a nearly six-minute video clip without audio to its Facebook page Monday, May 10. The clip is marked “dumpster” in the lower right corner and timestamped 1:40 a.m. Sunday, April 11. The video was captured behind 10 Market Street, a suite of offices across the street from the Copper Fox and a few hundred feet from the Oneonta Public Safety Building.

The clip shows a group of about 20 college-age men streaming into a parking lot from the right side of the frame before swarming onto what appears to be a patio.

Another figure appears in the frame, coming into view on the patio from the right side. About 30 seconds into the clip, one of the group approaches the lone figure and appears to shove him. The two disappear from view to the right of the frame as the rest of the group streams up the stairs towards the action.

The crowd begins to disperse at around one minute and 15 seconds into the clip. At least one of the figures is shown taking off running. The group reassembles on the patio, appearing to interact with another person or persons out of frame. One member of the group appears to be recording the interaction with his cellphone. 

At about two and a half minutes into the clip, a few members of the group appear to lunge at the figure off-screen as the others stream back up the patio stairs. One member of the group grabs a folding chair from the patio and throws it to the lower right corner. Shortly before the three-and-a-half-minute mark, another chair is thrown in the same direction, and then a third. 

One of the chairs flies back into view as the group continues to surge toward the right of the frame, out of view of the camera. A large plastic tote is also shown being tossed back and forth in the scuffle. 

Four and a half minutes into the clip, the group begins to disperse, heading down the stairs. A chair is thrown from the patio into the parking lot below. Thirty seconds later, about five members charge back up the stairs against the crowd before abruptly turning around and darting back down again.

A pair of women are shown dispersing the last of the crowd seconds before uniformed police officers arrive and ascend the stairs, lit flashlights in hand.

No suspects have been identified, according to acting Oneonta Police Chief Christopher Witzenburg. 

“Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where people are being less than forthcoming,” he said.

OPD has identified multiple witnesses to the event, but none has so far identified anyone in the crowd, Witzenburg said.

Police made the video public nearly a month after the incident in a further bid to identify the suspects, but had not received any credible tips in the day and a half since, Witzenburg said.

Franklin Chambers, SUNY Oneonta’s vice president for external affairs, said the college is “cooperating to the fullest extent possible under law” with the investigation.

“Any SUNY Oneonta student identified as having violated our Student Code of Conduct in connection with this incident will be subject to sanctions through our Office of Community Standards,” Chambers said in an emailed statement.

Oneonta detectives are investigating a similar assault allegedly by a group of college students late Saturday night, May 8.

Oneonta resident Alfred Grant said he was attacked by about a dozen young men while walking to his home on Church Street between 10 and 10:30 p.m. 

The group chased him a couple blocks and mobbed his front yard, Grant said. “I just barely made it.”

Grant said he fell back into the threshold of his home when his pregnant girlfriend opened the door to let him in. At least one of the group followed him through the door.

The 27-year-old father of two said his body was severely bruised from the assault and his eye was swollen shut.

“What if that had been one of my kids?” he said. “I’m worried for other people. These students think because they leave in a week that they can do whatever they want.”

The incident was captured in part by his neighbor’s doorbell camera. Another neighbor called 911 when she heard Grant yelling, he said.

A SUNY Oneonta representative said the school is not aware of any additional incidents. 

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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