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Drew Expo organizers weigh options after weekend fights [with video](Roanoke, VA)
The Roanoke Times ^ | May 22, 2012 | Chase Purdy

Posted on 05/22/2012 9:35:50 PM PDT by Perseverando

(EDITOR'S WARNING: This reader-submitted video includes profanity and other derogatory language that may be offensive to some viewers.)

In the days following a two-night melee at the annual Drew Expo carnival last weekend, an event promoter and police are left to consider how to avoid a repeat next year.

Erect a $5,000 fence around the festivities? Increase the police presence?

Event promoter Jan Wilkins said he’s noticed a steady increase in violence at the carnival over the years, fighting that reached a crescendo Friday and Saturday nights.

Wilkins said the yearly problem eats into the carnival’s reputation and financial take-away. It raises questions about how much money he can afford to spend on security, and whether Roanoke police should increase officer attention at the event’s location, in anticipation of trouble.

Wilkins said he spent $4,100 this year to pay off-duty Roanoke police to work for $30 per hour. The rate has remained the same since 2009, he said, but he expects it to increase next year.

“This is a for-profit venture,” he said. “I don’t want to see it go incrementally higher. Do I hire another $5,000 of police officers, or do I put up the fence?”

The four off-duty officers could only do so much, spectators such as Joe La Tempa said. The violence might have sparked near the carnival rides, but it migrated off Roanoke Civic Center property, too.

In a split second, La Tempa found himself in the midst of the fracas Friday, waiting with his toddler atop his shoulders as his fiancée rode the Ring of Fire.

Around them, a night of fights was beginning, with hundreds of people — mostly teenagers — running through the Drew Expo carnival, throwing punches and knocking people to the ground, La Tempa, 27, of Roanoke, said.

The four off-duty officers working Friday responded first, followed by five on-duty police. Even as they arrived, the unruly crowd moved away from the event and across the street, to a McDonald’s restaurant where they jumped onto tables and yelled.

As La Tempa and his family walked back to their car, near the McDonald’s parking lot, he said they lamented out loud the night’s events.

“What you say?” one woman said to him, according to his account of the confrontation.

“And the next thing I know, 12 of them were in our face while my 2-year-old was on my shoulders,” he said. “The boys started yelling, ‘We fight dirty! We roll in punches!’ ”

Feeling the commotion coming to a head, La Tempa said he prepared to fight, but then saw one of the teens pull a blade from his pocket.

La Tempa’s family retreated and called police.

Police said there’s no indication the fights on either night were gang-related.

The mobs repeated Saturday, forcing carnival officials to close early. Wilkins estimated he lost more than $20,000 because of the early closures.

Both nights Roanoke police resorted to pepper-spraying some in the packs as they swarmed the civic center parking lot by the hundreds, pitching fights and talking trash, authorities and spectators said.

Police made no arrests.

“In that situation, the officers were concerned with dispersing the crowd,” said Aisha Johnson, police spokeswoman. “Making multiple arrests in an instance like that can be very difficult, and if you pull an officer away to arrest somebody, that officer is then taken out of the situation.”

Johnson said no decision has been made about the number of on-duty officers devoted to patrolling the carnival’s immediate vicinity next year.

“When you have an event like this, the department has a plan in place to deal with incidents that might arise,” she said. “It’s not something I really could share with the public or the media.”

Wilkins said he’d like to see a dozen officers work the event next year.

Whether La Tempa and his family will return next year remains to be seen.

He only used a portion of the $40 he spent on ticket rides before the carnival was ordered to close.

“Honestly, I’ve been there before,” La Tempa said. “You go to these things and there are going to be fights — but nothing like this.”

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; US: Virginia
KEYWORDS: carnival; roanoke; thugs; virginia; youts
The video is at The Roanoke Times site. This is an update from the previous Drew Expo related article.
1 posted on 05/22/2012 9:36:05 PM PDT by Perseverando
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To: Perseverando

Additional info:

Police use pepper spray to break up fights at Roanoke carnival [with 911 call] -

2 posted on 05/22/2012 9:57:34 PM PDT by Perseverando (Keywords are our friends ! Let's use them.)
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To: Perseverando

They bent over backwards to not describe the “packs” of instigators.

3 posted on 05/22/2012 10:03:59 PM PDT by USNBandit (sarcasm engaged at all times)
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To: USNBandit
They bent over backwards to not describe the “packs” of instigators.

You mean our black friends were causing trouble AGAIN?

4 posted on 05/23/2012 2:17:22 AM PDT by Hacksaw (If I had a son, he'd look like George Zimmerman.)
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To: Perseverando

It is only a matter of time before a Bernie Goetz moment for some of these yutes.

5 posted on 05/23/2012 2:29:26 AM PDT by FreedomPoster (Islam delenda est)
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