Police brace for post-game parties, seek help in identifying suspects

gkocher1@herald-leader.comApril 2, 2012 

Extra police officers are already on the street ahead of Monday night's post-game festivities.

During a news conference Monday afternoon to detail plans for traffic and crowd control, Lexington Police Chief Ronnie Bastin said several hundred officers will be out after the NCAA championship game Monday night between the Univeristy of Kentucky and Kansas University.

Lexington Police Cmdr. Kelli Edwards said officers were already in the State Street area off Nicholasville Road and in bars around campus as the press conference was under way early Monday afternoon.

Bastin declined to say how many more officers would be patrolling Monday after fans set several couches and one car ablaze Saturday night after UK defeated the University of Louisville.

"Most of the UK fans celebrating Saturday night were happy, peaceful and law-abiding," Bastin said. "While the majority of people celebrating on State Street were doing so in an acceptable manner, the behavior of some was dangerous, criminal and totally unacceptable. This behavior cannot and will not be tolerated."

Lexington Police Cmder. Shawn Coleman showed photographs of 14 individuals who are wanted for allegedly throwing bottles at police, shooting fireworks into a crowd, starting a vehicle fire or damaging a stop sign. If identified and caught, the individuals will face charges of arson, wanton endangerment, assault or criminal mischief, depending on what the photographs documented or what officers witnessed.

Police are enlisting the help of citizens to identify the people in the videos and photos through a Web site, www.IDThisperson.com, where a $25 reward is offered for tips that lead to arrests, said police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts. Citizens with information can tell police through the site or by calling 859-258-3700, the police bureau of investigations.

Bastin said he was not aware of any arrests that have been made yet from videos or photos that have been taken.

Acts of arson first-degree are punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison, and first-degree wanton endangerment is punishable by one to five years in prison, Bastin said. If a small trash or couch fire extends into a structure or vehicle, that would warrant a felony arson charge, said Lexington Fire Department Maj. Mark Blankenship.

Individuals who engage in such acts will be investigated and prosecuted. "If you choose to commit criminal acts, don't be surprised when we knock on your door, even days after the event, and arrest you for a criminal offense," Bastin said. "We ask all Cat fans that are celebrating to celebrate responsibly. It's simply not worth jeopardizing your college career and having a felony arrest record that follows you for the rest of your life."

Victor Hazard, UK dean of students, reiterated what his boss, UK President Eli Capilouto, said in a public letter to students. In addition to any criminal charges, students arrested may also face penalties ranging from a warning letter, probation, suspension or expulsion for violations of the UK Student Code of Conduct.

More than 30 people were arrested after Saturday's celebration in UK neighborhoods by police, the sheriff's office, fire emergency services and UK police for such things as alcohol intoxication, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.

Edwards said people should take responsibility for their own safety.

"If you see a situation that looks dangerous or if you see activities or behavior that is dangerous, we urge you to get out of that area," Edwards said. "If you car is in that area, you need to get it out right now. Don't expect that when the crowd gets large that you're going to be able to maneuver through there."

UK Police Chief Joe Monroe reminded students "that the eyes of the nation are upon us, and your behavior does make a difference."

Asked if police recommended a curfew after a certain time period of celebration, Bastin said: "As long as folks are celebrating responsibly, we don't mind having the observer role. We realize this is a big event, and winning a national championship is something that every other school in the nation would desire to be doing tonight. So, we don't want to hamper a celebration in a healthy environment ... but we're not going to let people be hurt and we're not going to let significant property damage occur."

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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