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15 arrested after Ariz. fans clash with police on streets

Tucson police in riot gear used pepper spray on the unruly crowd and arrested 15 people on charges of disorderly conduct

By Veronica M. Cruz
The Arizona Daily Star

TUCSON, Ariz. — Fifteen people were arrested Saturday night after a confrontation on University Boulevard with Tucson police following the Arizona Wildcats' Elite Eight loss to the Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA basketball tournament.

Fourteen of those arrested were cited and released, and one person was booked into the Pima County jail, Sgt. Pete Dugan, a Tucson police spokesman said in a news release.

Police said nine of those arrested are current University of Arizona students.

The charges include unlawful assembly, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, all of which are misdemeanors.

Three of the arrestees had minor injuries.

The Associated Press reported that, in a statement, Dean of Students Kendal Washington White called Saturday's disturbance "disappointing" and said it was not reflective of the culture of the University of Arizona or Tucson.

"Our basketball team had a great season, and they exhibited exceptional class at every turn," White said. "They do not deserve the bad actions of these others."

White said all students who are found to have violated the school's code of conduct "will be held accountable."

After the game, hundreds of people spilled out of area bars and restaurants and congregated on University Boulevard and appeared to remain calm, the release said.

A witness, David Kitaeff, told The Associated Press that the incident started innocently with people taking photos, but then "people got in cops' faces."

Kitaeff said fans were throwing cans at officers whom he saw marching down University Boulevard.

As the crowd grew, police asked people to move out of the streets, the release said.

Police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly and gave the crowd orders over a PA system to disperse immediately several times in English and Spanish, the release said.

People began throwing beer bottles, cans and firecrackers at police. Some firecrackers rolled under a patrol vehicle.

Dugan said several people started challenging police. And instead of leaving, they began walking toward officers.

Officers launched about 200 pepper ball rounds to break up the crowd.

Officers also used two hard rubber rounds, four foam baton rounds and nine pepper canisters to control the crowd.

No officers were injured.

Jonathan Graham, general manager of Frog & Firkin, a pub on University Boulevard, praised the police department for how it handled the situation.

"They were very patient from when it let out. They actually let (the fans) celebrate or not celebrate, whatever they were doing, for quite a bit," Graham said.

Graham said it seemed most people weren't trying to cause trouble, but he felt safe having a police presence, given the size of the crowd and because many people had been drinking.

"As far as having the police down here and that presence, I felt secure," Graham said.

"And the kids, I want to say they weren't unruly, it was drunk college kids partying after a loss. I think more were hanging out in the street rather than trying to cause problems."

Dugan said officers have been training for an incident like this for months. Between 60 and 70 officers were staged on University Boulevard and others were staged on Fourth Avenue.

"We weren't anticipating anything major to happen, but were prepared in case anything did happen," Dugan said.

The only damage was a knocked-over street sign.

The department is reviewing information and video footage taken by witnesses and cameras worn by officers to ensure proper procedures were followed.


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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