1 shot, dozens arrested after Kentucky hoops riot

6:36 AM, Apr 3, 2012   |    comments
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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Authorities reported that one man was wounded by gunfire early Tuesday in Lexington, numerous small fires were set and dozens were arrested as thousands spilled into the street to celebrate Kentucky's win over Kansas to claim another NCAA title.

Police in Lexington were out in force early Monday night and making arrests soon after the title game ended.

Battalion Chief Ed Davis of the Lexington Division of Fire and Emergency Services said he saw the shooting as he was filling out paperwork on a wreck involving a fire engine. Davis said he heard yelling about 25 feet away, and one man started shooting at another. He said the gun was fired "quite a few times."

Davis said the man who was shot was taken to a hospital with what appeared to be non-life-threatening injuries.

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.

"We're seeing fires being lit and things of that nature," said police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts, adding that people had set couches and at least one car on fire.

By 12:20 a.m., copies of the local paper with headlines heralding the win were being passed around, as fountains of beer continued to douse the crowd.

Roberts said a vehicle hit a patio-like structure at the Cheapside Bar & Grill near Short and Mill streets around 11 p.m. Davis said there were no major injuries.

Earlier in the evening students spilled out from rented houses drinking beer, and from bars, where the honks of passing cars were greeted with cheers and raised drinks.

UK junior Kristin Dreasler and a dozen blue-clad friends were spray-painting a pine tree blue near cardboard gravestones for beaten teams - the University of Louisville, Baylor and Kansas, even before UK turned back the Jayhawks 67-59.

She wasn't surprised by the mania gripping campus, evident from hoots and fireworks and the occasional siren.

"If you're part of Big Blue Nation- there's nothing like it," she said. "I babysit kids here, and the 3-year-old knows all the players' names."

At the start of the game, more than 100 people mobbed the front lawn of a house on State Street with a big-screen TV on the porch - cheering wildly when UK scored and moaning as if they had suffered a mortal blow when Kansas sank buckets.

Behind a house on University Avenue, another 100 or so students drank prodigious quantities of beer while watching the game on a projector screen in the backyard.

"We're up by 9 baby!" a student shouted at one point as he stood on a table, eliciting a Cats cheer.

Police cars blocked roads near where fires were started Saturday night in the beer-soaked revelry following the Wildcat's victory against Louisville.

Lexington Fire reported more than 50 nuisance fires in the campus area that night, including numerous burned couches and a car that was overturned and set ablaze. About 30 people were arrested then, mostly on charges of alcohol intoxication and disorderly conduct.

Monday, when paramedics removed a partier on a stretcher, police in riot gear formed a circle for protection.

Brad Turnbull, a sophomore who said he watched crowds torch sofas and flip cars a few nights earlier, said he planned to have fun but stay out of trouble.

"These days there are cameras everywhere," he said. "But it's crazy. People are going nuts."

Authorities and campus officials had warned the public Monday afternoon that criminal behavior would not be tolerated and students could face additional repercussions from UK for any illegal behavior.

"We want to send a clear and strong message that individuals who engage in this behavior will be investigated and prosecuted," Lexington Police Chief Ronnie Bastin said. "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."

Saturday, investigators captured crimes in about a dozen high-quality photos and hope to use the images to charge more people in coming days.

Photos shown to reporters Monday clearly revealed illegal acts and closeups of faces. Police are asking the community to help identify the perpetrators through IDThisperson.com and will offer rewards for tips that lead to an arrest.

Bastin said first-degree arson carries a possible prison term of 10-20 years, while first-degree wanton endangerment is punishable with five years of incarceration. Both crimes occurred Saturday, and police will follow through on investigations in the days and weeks to come, he said.

UK Police Chief Joe Monroe cautioned that people from across the nation would be watching UK, and the behavior of students and non-students alike makes a difference.

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.

UK sophomore Cameron Chaney, 20, agreed. "It seems like they have more authorities tonight."

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."

 

(Copyright 2012 by Gannett Co. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. )

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