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Penn State drew national attention for its response to 2018 tailgate. Now it faces lawsuit

BRETT PALLOTTO
Centre Daily Times (TNS)
Penn State

Tents, grills and cornhole boards weren’t the only things set in motion when a state police helicopter was used in September 2018 to disperse a rowdy crowd from a Penn State football tailgate.

A New York couple filed Thursday a negligence and assault lawsuit against the university, its police department and the state police. William and Cathleen Deegan are seeking unspecified financial compensation.

William Deegan was one of several hundred who attended a tailgate outside Beaver Stadium before the Nittany Lions played the Ohio State Buckeyes, attorney Jeffrey Rosenbaum wrote in the 11-page lawsuit.

State and university police, which referred to the tailgate as a “large-scale party that was getting out of hand,” used a state police helicopter and horses in an attempt to gain control of the crowd.

One of the horses kicked Deegan in the head and knocked him into a parked vehicle, Rosenbaum wrote. Deegan was treated for several injuries, including a collapsed lung.

He alleged the university, its police department and the state police failed to properly train the officers and horses, and improperly used mounted police “in a situation where it was unsafe and unnecessary to do so.”

All three organizations declined Monday to comment.

One trooper and two horses were injured during the skirmish, which led to to national headlines. The university discontinued the use of a helicopter to make crowd announcements at football games pending an assessment.

Five men were charged after an investigation.