WASHINGTON – Police arrested a student athlete Thursday in connection with Saturday’s Final Four rampage in College Park, in which disappointed basketball fans set bonfires that caused more than $500,000 in damages.
Prince George’s County Police said Josh Weidman, 22, of the 7300 block of Dickinson Avenue in College Park, was arrested Thursday and charged with first- and second-degree malicious burning and destruction of property.
Police said Weidman, a member of the Terrapins’ wrestling team, faces more than nine years in jail and fines of up to $8,000 if convicted.
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 Thursday afternoon. “He has never done this before. His mother would beat him up if he did.”
Police said drunken fans set numerous fires around College Park after the Terrapin men’s basketball team lost to Duke in the semifinal game of the NCAA championship Saturday night.
College Park City Manager Richard N. Conti the bonfires and the post-game mayhem damaged street signs, road pavement, curbing and trees, and will cost the city between $22,000 and $23,000. He said three Comcast bundled fiber optic cables were damaged, at an estimated cost of about $500,000.
Someone identifying himself as Weidman was quoted Monday in The Washington Post as saying his house had been ransacked by “bonfire stokers. . .sometime in the middle of the night.” He went on to say that four sofas and a chair were taken from his living room and food was taken from the kitchen cabinets.
“All our furniture is gone,” Weidman told the Post. “It’s crazy.”
A county police spokesman said Weidman was identified from videos taken at the scene of the bonfires Saturday night. Police said they will show the videos on county cable in hopes of identifying more suspects, and they are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to additional arrests.
“I don’t know how many arrests we’re going to make, but for every lead we get, we will exhaust our resources,” said Prince George’s Police Chief John Farrell, who characterized the rampage as “hooliganism.”
University of Maryland spokesman George Cathcart confirmed that Weidman was student, but said the school would withhold punishment until the case is settled.
“For off-campus activities. . .we have to let due process run its course,” he said.
If convicted of a felony, Weidman could face “a range of sanctions” under the student code of conduct, including expulsion, Cathcart said.
“The university is pleased that this arrest apparently resulted from a tip,” he said, and “we anticipate and hope that other students will step forward.”
An athletic department spokeswoman confirmed that Weidman was on the wrestling team, whose web site calls him “Maryland’s Giant Killer.”
Weidman’s mother was aware of the incidents that followed the Terrapins’ loss to Duke in the NCAA Final Four Saturday night, 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. — Maryland Newsline reporter Tynisa Trapps contributed to this report.