Penn State, University Police Sued Following 2018 Tailgate Helicopter Incident

A New York couple has filed a negligence and assault lawsuit against Penn State, its police department, and state police after a state police helicopter was used to break up a 2018 football tailgate.

William and Cathleen Deegan, who filed the lawsuit on Thursday, seek unspecified financial compensation.

According to the lawsuit, William Deegan was one of hundreds of fans who attended a tailgate outside Beaver Stadium ahead of Penn State’s matchup against Ohio State in September 2018. Police arrived at the “crowded” tailgate pursuing an unidentified individual and eventually subdued him.

After the unidentified individual was subdued, mounted police entered the tailgate lot and continue patrolling the area. Then, one of the mounted police officer’s horses allegedly kicked Deegan in the head with “great force,” knocked him into a parked car, and led to “severe and serious injuries” to his head, chest, ear, ribs, eye, and nerves, among others.

“The defendants knew or should have known that a dangerous situation could arise on the aforesaid premises,” attorney Jeffrey Rosenbaum wrote.

Rosenbaum asserted Penn State, its police department, and the state police failed to properly train officers and horses and inappropriately used mounted police officers.

State and university police also used a state helicopter that day in an attempt to quell a “large-scale party that was getting out of hand.”

Law enforcement’s use of helicopters captured national attention and sent tents, tailgating equipment, and garbage flying across the lots. Following an investigation, university police said it would no longer use helicopters to make crowd announcements at tailgates. Additionally, five men were charged following investigations by the state and the Federal Aviation Administration.

All three named organizations declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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