Columbus Police address large gatherings during COVID-19 shutdown

Coronavirus

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus Police were called to break up two large gatherings over the weekend.

Danielle McClean was one of several residents on Oakwood Avenue who called police to complain about the loud music at 1255 Oakwood. “We all work or we’re retired or got little kids…this is just a nuisance, a complete nuisance,” McLean said.

The house had been rented for the night through airbnb.

AirBnB spokesman Ben Breit says it was an unauthorized party.

“The booking guest at 1255 Oakwood has been banned from AirBnB– additionally, we have deactivated the listing as we investigate further,” Breit said in a statement.

Officers responded to a similar call at 508-510 Jackson Street and found about 60 people at a party inside.

According to the police report, while officers were at the front door they saw an object fly out an upstairs window and into the yard next door. Officers checked the yard and found a loaded handgun.

Officers also witnessed several people with rifles and handguns running out the back door of the house. One person was charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

The Jackson Street property is also listed on AirBnB. However, Breit says the company did not have a reservation at the property over the weekend.

“We condemn the reckless behavior reportedly on display over the weekend,” Breit said. “Given current public health mandates in Ohio, AirBnB has already banned all parties and gatherings statewide until further notice and we will aggressively enforce those policies with hosts and guests.”

Breit said AirBnB has deactivated the listing of the Jackson Street property pending further investigation.

Columbus Police Sgt. James Fuqua said officers are primarily concerned with safely dispersing crowds and educating people about the state’s stay-at-home order.

“You know, a lot of people don’t understand the true meaning of the social distancing and why that is important and so, a lot of times, we will educate first because a lot of people still believe it will not happen to them,” Fuqua said. 

Fuqua said officers will issue warning letters and citations depending on the specific circumstances.

“There are so many risks involved when we have to engage with people who are not following this order and specific to large parties and crowds, so the last thing we want to do is jeopardize our officers who are trying to do their job and do it safely,” Fuqua said. 

Violating the state order against mass gatherings is a second-degree misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $750 fine.

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