Police in Ky. assess handling of post-game mayhem

By Rebecca Yonker

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, April 1 2012 4:50 p.m. MDT

In this Saturday, March 31, 2012, photo, Kentucky fans overturn a car as they celebrate Kentucky's 69-61 win over Louisville in an NCAA Final Four semifinal college basketball tournament game in Lexington, Ky. Lexington police say they are prepared to control crowds near the University of Kentucky's Lexington campus when Kentucky plays Kansas in the national championship basketball game on Monday.

Christian Randolph, Associated Press

A day after raucous celebrations led to more than two dozen arrests, police said Sunday that they are ready to control crowds near the University of Kentucky's campus when the Wildcats play Kansas for the national championship.

Lexington city police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts told The Associated Press on Sunday that several hundred officers will be out in force on Monday to help keep order.

"We're prepared," she said. "We expect a majority of people to obey the law."

Police plan a few adjustments from Saturday, when thousands of fans spilled onto streets after Kentucky defeated cross-state rival Louisville in New Orleans. Fans torched couches and overturned a car before setting it ablaze.

Roberts said police did a good job of getting rowdy fans under control. Officers arrested 27 people on minor charges such as disorderly conduct and alcohol intoxication.

Police who had braced for the possibility of post-game violence resorted to pepper spray, though large amounts weren't needed before officers ultimately began dispersing the throngs.

Lexington Fire Department Battalion Chief Ed Davis said there weren't any arson arrests. Police were still searching for the person who set the car on fire.

He said firefighters were dispatched to 50 nuisance blazes near the Lexington campus on Saturday night, which included the car, couches and campfires that were lit in the middle of the street.

He said most students who were out celebrating abided by the law and were helpful when "a few bad apples" caused problems — such as throwing beer bottles at police as they tried to break up the crowd.

Roberts said there were no serious injuries nor any major property damage and nothing occurred that police hadn't anticipated.

"I think we did pretty good, all things considered," she said.

Kentucky players and coach John Calipari expressed shock and disappointment over their fans' actions, but acknowledged that passion for the team can run high.

"Our fans are real crazy about us. If we win tomorrow, it'll be even more crazy," said guard Doron Lamb.

Guard Darious Miller said it looked "pretty crazy" from the videos he received on his cell phone.

"I don't know how to explain it," he said. "Hopefully everyone makes it out OK."

Forward Terrence Jones described the images as "crazy."

"I don't want to go to that person's house. They don't have nowhere for me to sit," he said, in a tongue-and-cheek reference to the burned couches. "That's crazy."

Calipari said he was disappointed to hear about the chaos in Lexington, and he had team spokesman DeWayne Peevey use Twitter to encourage fans to calm down. He said it might be that some fans just had too much to drink.

"The state of Kentucky is so connected to this program. It's the commonwealth's team. They go overboard sometimes," he said.

Roberts said 150 officers were deployed on the streets at one point to quell what she called "a very dangerous situation" with the fires and mayhem that dragged on for hours.

The scene was similar in 1998 when Kentucky won the national championship game. That year, 300 officers in full riot gear lined downtown streets as a gathering of nearly 15,000 fans celebrated.

Police made 10 arrests, and 25 people were treated for minor injuries.

Two years earlier, chaos ensued following Kentucky's win over Syracuse in the championship game — officers were pelted with beer bottles, and a television news crew's van was overturned.

Yonker reported from Louisville, Ky. Fly reported from New Orleans.

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