Police to announce plans for post-game celebration

jpatton1@herald-leader.comApril 1, 2012 

Lexington police on Monday will outline plans to prevent post-game fan revelry from getting out of hand following the NCAA championship game.

No-parking zones and tow-away zones will be increased in some areas around campus, and more streets might be closed to traffic.

Similar efforts, police say, kept things from becoming more than a "civil disturbance" after Saturday's University of Kentucky victory in the national semifinals.

On Saturday night, State Street, off Nicholasville Road across from the UK campus, was the scene of the most significant mayhem, with thousands of jubilant fans converging to burn couches, flip vehicles and fling bottles in the neighborhood that includes mostly student rental housing.

Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said Sunday there were 27 arrests, mostly for disorderly conduct and alcohol intoxication. UK Police Chief Joe Monroe said Sunday that on campus, there were two arrests for alcohol intoxication and for driving under the influence.

Fire department spokesman Major Ed Davis said Sunday that there had been no arrests for arson but that officials are still investigating.

EMS took about 15 people to hospitals for alcohol intoxication, cuts from broken glass and other injuries. Many more were treated at the scene for minor injuries. There were reports of fans suffering the effects of pepper spray.

Police attempted to disperse the State Street crowd by walking through in riot gear, and by calling in mounted patrols on horseback before firing pepper balls into the air.

Despite being outnumbered 10,000 to 200, Roberts said, the safety officers on the scene were able to keep injuries and property damage to a minimum. At least two police officers suffered minor injuries.

"I can say with certainty that nothing went wrong with our plan last night. Everything that happened, we expected, anticipated and planned for and were able to deal with. Unfortunately, we knew that people were going to attempt to destroy property, set fires, and be highly intoxicated. Nothing last night that was unexpected. But there were more than 10,000 people and 200 police officers," Roberts said. "We stopped a lot of property from being destroyed, a lot of fires from being started, but it's physically impossible to stop everything."

UK President Eli Capilouto, interviewed on WKYT from New Orleans, said the footage of the civil disturbance in Lexington reflected poorly on the school.

"We can't tolerate behavior that could harm someone," Capilouto said.

UK officials said students involved in criminal activity could face additional sanctions.

"It is unfortunate that a small number of people are using what should be a night of celebration as an excuse to attempt to tarnish the university and the community," UK spokesman Jay Blanton said in a statement issued late Saturday. "To the extent that students are involved in any illegal activity or actions that violate the university's student code, they will be dealt with appropriately."

Roberts said Sunday that police probably will be able to identify who of those arrested were students.

While police are focusing on safety concerns right now, Blanton said that after Monday, "we'll look at cases and see what if any cases need to be referred to student affairs for possible violations of student code." Students could face consequences for participating in illegal activities or activities that violated student codes of conduct.

Much of Saturday's scene is on video — and now turning up on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — so more arrests could be coming. Lexington police also took video of the disturbances, which were confined to the student-populated areas around campus.

Over the course of the evening, fire engines were dispatched to more than 50 "nuisance fires" Davis said, such as large trash containers, cars, couches and piles of debris.

"They set fire to pretty much everything you can set fire to," he said.

In one instance, firefighters doused a couch to prevent it from being set on fire. Revelers stuffed it "with about 20 pizza boxes" and ignited it anyway, he said. Then, after firefighters extinguished that fire, the couch was doused with gasoline and ignited again.

Early reports were that five cars were burned on State Street, but Davis said he knew of only one car that was ignited. Several callers reported that fire but gave incorrect addresses for it, which resulted in a single car fire being dispatched five separate times.

Before it ignited, revelers were observed turning over a car as they chanted "flip that s---." More than a dozen student-age people climbed on the overturned car, chanted and waved UK and U.S. flags. Video footage showed revelers dousing the car with what appeared to be lighter fluid then setting it aflame.

Minutes later, the upside-down car was fully engulfed, with flames shooting high into the air, licking power lines.

Firefighters attempted to extinguish the fire but ran out of water. A second truck was called in to douse the car. Davis said that fire was dangerous because so many people were nearby.

"The problem is that it was in the middle of a crowd," he said. "Had they been much closer, there would have been some people burned."

After a tow truck righted the car and pulled it to Limestone, it ignited again before it could be placed on a wrecker, Davis said.

Another car was overturned but not burned, and other cars had minor to major damage such as crushed roofs or broken windows.

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: janetpattonhlJosh Kegley: (859) 231-3250. Twitter: hlpublicsafety

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