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Prince George's County Police video from the Saturday night, March 31, rampage (18 min.):
Police Charge U. of Md. Wrestler With Destroying  Property in Saturday's College Park Rampage

Josh Weidman in his U. of Maryland athletics photo
University of Maryland wrestler Josh Weidman  (Courtesy University of Maryland Athletics)
By Tynisa E. Trapps
Maryland Newsline
Thursday, April 5, 2001; posted at 7:50 p.m.

PALMER PARK, Md. - Prince George's County Police  arrested a University of Maryland wrestler today in connection with a major fire set in College Park following the Terps' Final Four loss to Duke. 

Josh Weidman, 22, of the 7300 block of Dickinson Avenue in College Park, was arrested at his home and charged with first- and second-degree malicious burning and malicious destruction of property. Police allege Weidman helped start Saturday night's fire on Dickinson Avenue that took out a Comcast Cable line and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

That fire put "the community and police at risk," said Prince George's County Chief of Police John Farrell. He added Weidman's arrest followed a tip from a student.  

"We promised we'd follow up diligently," Farrell said. "It's extremely important we send a message for the future that these types of activities simply won't be tolerated." 

Attempts to reach Weidman by phone were unsuccessful, but his mother, Sue Weidman, said "this is not in his character." 

"I don't know what to say. I'm speechless," she said from her home in Hershey, Pa., after a reporter told her of her son's arrest. "He has never done this before. His mother would beat him up if he did."

A spokesman for the University of Maryland Athletics Department said it was unlikely the coach would comment this evening on Weidman's arrest.

The charge of first-degree malicious burning carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. Second-degree malicious burning carries a maximum sentence of 18 months and/or a $500 fine. Malicious destruction of property carries a three-year sentence and/or $2,500 fine, the chief said. 

Weidman was one of the thousands of students, alumni and others who gathered in residential neighborhoods of College Park after the Terp basketball team's 11-point loss to Duke. For more than two hours, the mobs set more than 60 fires, knocked down street signs and knocked out cable service to residents of College Park, Laurel and Adelphi, police said.

College Park City Manager Richard Conti estimated damage to the city was between $22,000 and $23,000. Conti estimated that damage to Comcast Cable was more than $500,000, although Comcast officials later put the total at about $325,000. 

Maj. Cathy Atwell of the University of Maryland Police Department estimated the cost of damage on campus was about $3,000. A window in Ellicott Dining Hall was smashed, numerous trash cans were toppled and set on fire and several windows in the Computer and Space Sciences building were cracked.

Two students were hospitalized for burns. Atwell said there were many minor injuries that were treated on the spot by ambulance crews. 

"This hooliganism is not something that just started spontaneously," Farrell said. "It really evolved into an intense demonstration of this anything-goes attitude."

Farrell said tapes of the rampage obtained from area TV stations will be broadcast tonight and the next two nights on Cable Channel 29B in  Prince George's County. He said if anyone recognizes anyone involved in criminal activity, they're encouraged to call the Crime Solvers hotline at 301-735-1111. 

A $1,000 reward is being issued for information that leads to an arrest. 

"We are going to continue to do everything we can for the community to make sure justice is served," Farrell said. "We expect additional suspects will be identified and charged."

The University Police will post photos of some of the revelers on its Web site and in the campus daily, the Diamondback. 

"It is clear this is a national phenomena, and people like to copycat and imitate what they see, and it's not just college students," Atwell said. "It's not the why the police are trying to figure out, but it's, 'How we can do this differently?' "

George Cathcart, director of university communications, said the university plans to take action against students convicted of criminal behavior. 

"We will bring these people to justice," Cathcart said. "We want to send a clear message that these actions are illegal and not tolerated."

He added the university is looking at ways to ensure that future events, like a campus concert held annually in May, won't get out of hand.

"We have to find new ways to celebrate and express our feelings that are not destructive and that respect other people's property," Cathcart said. 

Weidman's mother said she was aware of the incidents that followed the Terrapins' loss to Duke in the NCAA tournament, but was surprised that her son may have been involved. "He certainly didn't call me up and say, 'Hey, I was burning mattresses in the street,' " she said. 

Capital News Service reporter Robert F. Patrick contributed to this report.

Video released by Prince George's County Police. (Best viewed on a corporate LAN.)

Copyright 2001 University of Maryland College of Journalism.


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