Skip to Content

Large graduation party in Carbon County sparks debate

SALT LAKE CITY — A large high school graduation party at a Carbon County residence and the subsequent response by the sheriff's office has divided some residents.

Some believe graduation parties with alcohol have been happening for years and is a matter of "kids being kids." But Carbon County Sheriff Jeff Wood said it is much more serious than that.

"This was not just a small gathering and these were not just kids being kids. All too often this type of event comes with medical calls, sexual assaults, fights or accidents that can be avoided. I expect a more sensible and responsible approach to our youth blowing off steam for graduation," Wood wrote in a social media post.

On Wednesday, the sheriff made a long post on the Carbon County Sheriff's Office Facebook page. In his message, he talked about a large graduation party recently busted in Price. Numerous law enforcement agencies were called to a house with approximately 80 juveniles.

"A large amount of alcohol and illegal drugs were present with children ranging in age from 15 to 20 years old. Medical personnel were called to the scene to assist with juveniles that had obviously consumed too much alcohol and their health was at risk, one of the partygoers had to be transported by ambulance to the hospital," Wood posted.

The homeowner, who was not present, told police he agreed to a small gathering of 20 people at his residence with no alcohol, Wood wrote. An adult sibling who was there claimed he was trying to shut the party down.

"The homeowner was extremely upset to find his home in total disarray with vomit on the floors, broken furniture, people hiding in the closets, under beds and in the attic," the sheriff stated.

"All juveniles were identified and tested to see if they had been consuming alcohol or illegal drugs, the ones that had not consumed alcohol or drugs were allowed to leave, the ones that had were issued citations or referred to juvenile court. The adult that was present was also cited for contributing to this situation," he continued.

According to court records, at least 19 people were charged in Carbon County Justice Court between May 25 and Sunday for intoxication, possession of drug paraphernalia, or purchase, possession or consumption of alcohol by a minor. All of the charges were for an incident on May 25 near 600 East and 2500 South in Price, court records state. Some of those charged had their cases transferred to juvenile court.

One man, 47, was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, court records state.

A 20-year-old man was booked into the Carbon County Jail for investigation of intoxication. According to his jail booking statement, "Numerous city and county units were dispatched to a large underage drinking party. … Officers on scene had already come in contact with literally dozens of persons under the age of 21 who had been consuming alcohol; several of whom had ran from police."

The man who was arrested was barricaded inside a laundry room in the house and passed out, the report states.

"Once we were able to gain entry into the room, (the man) vomited all over himself and the floor he was lying on. (He) would not open his eyes, and was unresponsive to questioning, which he would only grunt when asked a question. Once (he) became coherent enough to answer questions, he did not know where he was or how he got there," the charges state.

The man was first taken to a local hospital before being taken to jail.

In his message, Wood expressed his disappointment with everyone involved.

"I want to remind the juveniles involved in this incident that this type of behavior is illegal and comes with consequences that can last a lifetime. It is not something to be taken lightly and it is not responsible behavior. Graduation is not a free pass to run wild and ignore the rules of society. I want everyone to understand that local law enforcement will uphold the law and will not tolerate underage consumption of alcohol," the sheriff wrote.

But the Facebook post was met with mixed reaction from the community. While the majority of people supported the sheriff's actions, some, like one man, stated that they have had conversations with deputies who told them "how hard they partied & how drunk they got their grad night ... so why couldn't you guys let us be?"

After some questioned the actions of law enforcers, Wood followed up his original post with a second post that included pictures of ecstasy pills seized from the party.

"It is apparent that several people do not understand the gravity of this incident. The drugs seized at the scene were not just marijuana," he wrote.

Other items seized included "prescription amphetamine and unidentified crushed pills among many items of paraphernalia," the sheriff stated.

Wood also addressed questions about why graduation parties in prior years weren't dealt with as harshly.

"Times have changed. Many more restrictions and expectations have been placed on law enforcement in recent years. No longer can the sheriff's office take on the liability of facilitating the illegal consumption at the graduation party, and we would never have consented to illegal drug use," Wood said. "The county can also not afford a lawsuit because a person was injured or died as a result of being at the graduation party if we were made aware of it and ignored or even contained the party."

The majority of people who reacted to the post were in favor of the sheriff's actions. While some commented about the "good ol' days," others noted that even though they also participated in graduation parties when they were young, they probably wouldn't have if they knew then what they know now.

"It wasn't until I had kids of my own that I could see the danger of underage drinking. I could finally grasp the fact that any of those times could have been my last. Kids just can't see it now, but someday they will. Thank you (Carbon County Sheriff's Office) for doing what you can to keep everyone safe, and getting babies home to their mommas for another day," one woman wrote.