On streets near UM, trash time

Police were ready

17 arrested in rioting

April 03, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Prince George's County and University of Maryland police are reviewing videotapes made Monday night in an effort to identify more of those responsible for damage to College Park businesses in the rioting that followed the NCAA championship game.

But College Park merchants - many of whom guarded their property after the Terrapins' win - breathed a collective sigh of relief yesterday that the damage hadn't been worse.

At a news conference last night, acting Prince George's County Police Chief Gerald Wilson said he was pleased with the way police handled the crowd Monday night - contrasting it with last year's Final Four loss to Duke, after which people lit numerous bonfires and caused an estimated $500,000 in damage.

He acknowledged police had not been ready a year earlier and noted that the department had again been criticized for its response to rioting that followed Saturday's NCAA semifinal game.

"I'm here to tell everybody that's not going to happen again," Wilson said.

About 300 officers were on patrol as 17 people, including three students, were arrested during Monday night's turmoil. Eight people were transported to hospitals, and emergency workers responded to 24 medical and 16 fire calls Monday night and early yesterday, said county Fire Chief Ronald D. Blackwell.

The most serious trouble occurred near U.S. 1 and Knox Road, where a group broke 10 panes of glass at College Park Bicycles and assaulted manager Chad Kayser, police said.

Kayser was hit in the back with a two-by-four and kicked repeatedly while thieves grabbed at least 30 bikes valued at about $45,000, said bicycle mechanic Adrian Hall. Kayser refused medical treatment and continued to guard the store until 5 a.m., Hall said.

Mike Falamoun owner of Ratsie's restaurant, which is at the same intersection, said he called 911 after he realized about 100 people were on the roof of his restaurant ripping apart its signs and tossing them into an 8-foot-high bonfire in the street below.

"Big game, big damage," he said.

A Mail Boxes Etc. store nearby also had its windows broken, but damage was lighter elsewhere and merchants said yesterday they thought the police had handled the situation well.

Tom Fitzpatrick, store manager of Smoothie King, just across U.S. 1 from Ratsie's, credited a strong police showing with keeping the crowd under control. "This whole town would have been burned down," Fitzpatrick said.

Monday night's trouble cost College Park about $5,000 in damage and cleanup, said City Manager Richard Conti, about the same as the city's bill after Saturday's semifinal win.

People gathered in the horseshoe of fraternity houses just across U.S. 1 from the main campus and lighted four bonfires early yesterday morning, feeding them with everything from mattresses to furniture to T-shirts, a maintenance worker said.

Acting Chief Wilson said crowds turned from revelers to rioters Monday night when they tore apart a bicycle rack that served as a barricade between the crowd and police in riot gear.

When the crowd advanced, Wilson said, he authorized police to "judiciously" use pepperball guns, which peg their targets with a marble-sized dose of nonlethal pepper spray.

Despite the chaos, College Park merchants were generally in a cheerful mood yesterday and personally grateful for the Terps' victory.

"It got a little scary for a while after we won," said Jessica Denson, shift manager at Smoothie King. "But if Maryland would have lost, I am frightened at the prospect of what would have happened to College Park."

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