Baltimore Co. drops call for probe of 'rave' party

January 04, 1994|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

In the hours following an all-night teen-age rave party at the Timonium fairgrounds New Year's Eve, Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden called for county police and prosecutors to fully investigate alleged drug and alcohol use at the party.

By yesterday, that call had faded like a bad hangover.

"We're not going to do anything about the party that was just held," said Sgt. Stephen Doarnberger, a county police spokesman.

"We don't have any complaints. Our officers didn't observe anything illegal going on."

County officials reversed course yesterday afternoon after Mr. Hayden met with Police Chief Michael D. Gambrill; Deputy State's Attorney Sue A. Schenning; Nancy West, an assistant county attorney; and Michael M. Gimbel, director of the Office of Substance Abuse.

After the meeting, Mr. Gimbel said county officials were considering ways to better monitor and control rave parties in Baltimore County.

"We're not out to ban rave parties in Baltimore County," he said. "We want them to have events for kids that are alcohol-free and secure."

The debate over what happened at the party, held in the Cow Palace of the state fairgrounds from 10 p.m. Friday night to midday Saturday, continued yesterday.

Although he saw no overt drug use, or drinking, Mr. Gimbel said, he believes illegal drugs were being used and alcohol was

consumed. He said he saw people smoking in cars on the parking lot, which was littered with empty beer bottles and alcohol containers.

Mr. Gimbel, who considers himself an expert on drug use, said he believes the people were smoking marijuana.

He also said he thought security was poor and that the darkened dance floor was dangerous.

"We're very fortunate and grateful that nothing really horrible happened," he said. "Our concern is that something terrible could happen."

Lonnie Fisher, who organized the party, said yesterday that he was glad the investigation had been called off and that he had nothing to hide.

"I welcome an investigation," he said.

About 2,500 young people attended the party, paying $20 to $25 each to dance to loud techno-music and revel in an accompanying laser light show.

Thirteen private security guards monitored the entrances and checked for alcohol, glass containers and weapons. The searches were not full body searches.

Mr. Gimbel said he visited the party at 10:30 p.m. Friday and at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

He said he saw what he believed were people under age 18 at the party, including 12- and 13-year-olds.

Mr. Fisher called the accusations "absolutely ridiculous" and criticized Mr. Gimbel for not alerting police if he thought something illegal was happening.

"If he saw 12- or 13-year-old kids there, why didn't he call police?" asked Mr. Fisher.

"What kind of public official is he? If he saw all of those things, why didn't he call police?"

Mr. Gimbel said he was "in a really awkward position." On the one hand, he wanted to call police and fire officials and shut the party down, he said, but on the other, he was afraid such action might cause a riot.

Mr. Fisher said he didn't see any underage children at the party or anyone using illegal drugs. If he had, he said, he would have asked them to leave or alerted police officers who were outside.

Emily Dougal White, 24, worked for the company that provided the party's sound equipment. She said she has worked various concerts, public events and more than 20 rave parties.

Ms. White said she saw people at the party who she believes were on drugs but that she didn't see anybody take drugs. She said she also has seen people on drugs at Dolly Parton and Neil Diamond concerts.

"You get that in any large crowd," she said. "The kids did behave

themselves."

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