The curious case of the East Campus fireworks


Somebody has been setting off fireworks on East Campus but nobody knows who.

David Benson, senior pastor at the Campus Lutheran church, is one of the neighborhood’s residents who reported the fireworks to the police, primarily because the culprits had been using the church’s parking lot to set them off. Benson said church officials found big boxes of fireworks in the church’s lot on several occasions.

He said the matter was reported to the police, but police haven’t been able to find anyone.

Columbia Police Department Lt. Brian Richenberger heads up the southeast division, which includes East Campus. Richenberger said that in addition to responding to calls of fireworks, police have discussed the issue with the residents. They have also contacted the fraternity houses in the area and provided educational information to people in the neighborhood.

The fireworks saga began in August and followed a pattern: the fireworks would go off every Thursday and Saturday at 2 a.m, Anthony Street resident Amy Drage, said. She said the fireworks don’t happen “so often anymore” but their memory is still strong in residents’ minds.

The fireworks have been a nuisance for the residents. Drage said the fireworks often caused a disruption in her family’s sleep.

“Well the biggest problem is that these fireworks are set off on Thursdays in the middle of the night and wake us up,” she said. “My kids have school on Friday morning and I have work.”

Beccah Benson, an MU student and East Campus resident, said the fireworks were obnoxious.

“It’s annoying when the fireworks wake me up,” she said.

Police have been on the lookout for culprits without success. The only consolation might be the residents’ observation that the fireworks have grown random and less frequent over the past few weeks. Richenberger said there could be several explanations for this decrease in intensity.

“It is quite likely that our presence and citizen contacts have influenced the culprits,” he said. “It is also possible that the suspects are running out of fireworks to shoot off.”

Some people have also mistaken the fireworks for gunshots. Drage said some of the residents near downtown had reported them to the police as shots fired. Benson said she thinks it might be due to the height the fireworks reach in the sky, which makes them difficult to see, and the exploding noise they generate.

“The first time it happened it scared me,” she said. “I thought they were shots because I couldn’t see the fireworks.”

East Campus is famous for being a party center on weekends because of the high number of students that live in the neighborhood. Drage said she thinks it’s likely there might be some partying students involved in this mischief, but she said she wasn’t angry with them.

“We love the college students,” Drage said. “We’re not mad at these guys.”

The failure of any arrests or fines in connection with the fireworks have caused a rumor in the neighborhood that the fireworks are automated and are being set off through remote control. Richenberger said police have inspected the discarded equipment found in the parking lot of Campus Lutheran church and he was not aware of any type of remote control being used.

In addition to causing annoyance to the public, setting off of fireworks within the city limits is also a punishable offense. According to the city of Columbia code of ordinances (Chapter 16 Section 234), any person who sets off fireworks is considered guilty of misdemeanor (with a few lawful exceptions).


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Filed under Columbia-Boone County, East Campus

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