More fires, damage following UK win
Posted: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 7:00 pm
By DYLAN LOVAN
and BETH CAMPBELL
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Police reported numerous small fires and dozens of arrests near Kentucky’s campus after the Wildcats defeated Kansas on Monday night to capture another NCAA title.
Fans filled the streets near the Lexington campus within minutes of the championship game’s conclusion late Monday. They jumped up and down, screamed, sprayed beer and waved Kentucky flags.
Lexington police had arrested several dozen people by the time the game had been over only a few minutes, police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said late Monday.
“We’re seeing fires being lit and things of that nature,” Roberts said, adding that people had set couches and at least one car on fire.
A car crashed into the patio area at a bar and grill where some people were dining, but the metal-and-brick wall kept the vehicle from getting onto the patio, she said. She didn’t have information about injuries.
Police had also handed out numerous citations, many for alcohol-related offenses, Roberts said.
“I think that we’re taking a more zero-tolerance approach,” she said. “That has a part to play in it, but also people started celebrating much earlier than they did on Saturday. The amount of time to become intoxicated and the amount of time for us to be in contact with these intoxicated people has increased.”
About two hours after the game, Roberts said police had arrested people for charges such as criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, alcohol intoxication and setting fires. She said officers were still making arrests but didn’t have a precise estimate.
Battalion Chief Ed Davis of the Lexington Division of Fire and Emergency Services said about 40 fire runs had been made in the area where fans had gathered. One was a garage fire, but the rest were smaller nuisance fires involving couches or bedding, he said.
“And it’s still going on as we speak,” he said Tuesday morning. Davis knew of no fire-related injuries.
Emergency medical workers transported about 20 people to hospitals for treatment, mostly minor, he said.
The situation was similar to Saturday’s celebrations that resulted in several small fires, Davis said, although the area was more widespread Monday.
“There are literally thousands of people downtown everywhere,” he said a couple after the game was over.
“Ninety-nine percent are doing what they’re supposed to.”
For their part, revelers said the post-game celebration was a far cry from the weekend mayhem. They credited heavy security.
“It was much worse Saturday,” said 20-year-old Miranda Snow, who recalled seeing couch fires and other blazes two nights earlier.
Police had said they would be prepared following the mayhem that accompanied the Wildcats’ win over cross-state rival Louisville on Saturday night. Rowdy fans torched couches and turned over cars that night.
After Kentucky sealed its win Monday night in New Orleans, fans back home streamed out of bars to fill the intersection of Euclid and Woodland streets, some throwing beer cans into the air. Police in riot gear looked on but kept their distance at that corner.
Some revelers even stopped officers and asked to get photos taken with them and to shake hands. Officers happily obliged.
Students weren’t the only ones celebrating.
The revelers included Marie Allison, a 1968 UK graduate who was wearing a blue Final Four shirt. She recalled the last championship in 1998 and said, “This night is terrific. It’s even better than back then.”
Meanwhile, Kansas fans in downtown Lawrence took their team’s loss to Kentucky in stride Monday night as they poured onto Massachusetts Street amid random cries of “Rock Chalk Jayhawk,” with many proclaiming their pride in a team that wasn’t picked to finish in the top three in the Big 12 Conference.
Storekeepers said basketball fans — students and older residents alike — began crowding the entertainment strip of bars, restaurants and specialty shops near the Kansas campus, well before 5 p.m. in anticipation of the game against the heavily favored Wildcats.
“It’s OK, because look how far they made it,” Jobi Pierson, 51, from McLouth, about 20 minutes from Lawrence, said as the final seconds ticked away from Kansas’ national title hopes. “No matter what, they did well. I feel proud of them and I’m happy with what they’ve done.”
A heavy police presence — one police officer estimated about 250, but told a reporter “that’s not enough” — emerged at halftime and set up in groups of six along street corners to deter troublemakers. That included 70 Kansas Highway Patrol troopers brought in from across the state.
A mass of red and blue-clad basketball fans spilled into the street afterward, bringing traffic to a standstill.
In Kentucky, police earlier Monday had forcefully warned Wildcat fans that a repeat of the dangerous weekend celebrations around the Lexington campus wouldn’t be tolerated.
Lexington Police Chief Ronnie Bastin said some revelers Saturday night acted in a “dangerous and criminal” way by setting fires, overturning cars and hurling bottles into the air. Police used pepper spray in small amounts for crowd control after thousands of rowdy fans swarmed into the streets.
Officers made more than 30 arrests near the UK campus Saturday night for arson, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct, and authorities were expecting more arrests from that night’s revelry. Police showed the media photos of people in Saturday night’s crowds who have been targeted for arson and assault charges once they are identified. Bastin had said patrols would be beefed up for Monday’s game.
University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto also issued a warning Monday ahead of the game, saying the rowdy behavior detracted from the success of the players “who have worked tirelessly to represent UK at a national level.”
University officials warned students that aside from criminal charges, students could face suspension or expulsion for bad behavior.
UK’s campus was peaceful Monday afternoon, but excitement was in the air as blue-clad fans and students eagerly anticipated Kentucky’s first trip to the title game in 14 years.
Shouts of “Go Cats!” and honking horns were already audible near the campus’ main library in the early afternoon.
Across the street, sophomore Colby Myers and a friend were constructing a humorous tribute to Kentucky star forward and AP Player of the Year Anthony Davis. In the front yard of the Farmhouse Fraternity on Hilltop Avenue, they were sticking black plastic forks in the ground in the shape of Davis’s bushy eyebrows — which Myers and other fans endearingly call Davis’s “unibrow.”
In Louisville, home of the University of Louisville Cardinals, Kentucky Wildcats fans out filled bars and celebrated as the game neared an end Monday night.
“This is huge, this is unbelievable,” UK fan Jeff Douglas told WAVE-TV. “I can’t believe we got past Louisville and I just want to beat Kansas so bad.”
Things were going so well for Kentucky that one Cats fan even looked on one of the team’s chief rivals with fondness.
“I’m not a Cardinal fan, but I’m glad that they were there with us. It made it magical, and frankly if they would have won, I would have been rooting for them, so it’s about bringing it back to the state where basketball is king,” Billy Wade told the station.
Associated Press writers Campbell reported from Louisville and Bill Draper reported from Lawrence, Kan.
Follow Dylan Lovan on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dylanlovan Published in The Messenger 4.3.12