Anchorage parents, police differ on causes of melee

Posted: Tuesday, February 18, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Angry parents and teenagers bombarded Mayor George Wuerch and Anchorage police commanders Monday with questions about what police are calling a riot that broke out after a Fur Rendezvous teen dance.

Parents complained police used unnecessary force late Saturday night when they used pepper spray on some of the teens.

Police also released a stack of reports on the incident that provided new details, including indications of security lapses at the Egan Civic and Convention Center, where the dance was held.

Wuerch said he called the public briefing Monday at the Egan so parents and other people could come together, relieve their frustrations and get some information. Roughly 200 showed up.

''This is an incident that is not fully and completely investigated yet,'' Wuerch said.

The annual Fur Ball for 14- to 19-year-olds was marred by fights on the dance floor that police said appeared gang-related. Some kids went to the dance looking for fights, police said. The fights eventually spilled into the streets outside the center.

''We simply didn't have the resources to react to all the . . . violations that were occurring,'' officer Jeffrey Bell wrote in his report. A call went out that an officer needed help, and eventually 70 officers were on the scene.

On Monday, Wuerch told parents he regretted what happened but was relieved that there was no serious injury or major property damage. One teenager was taken to the hospital by paramedics. Two juveniles and two adults were arrested.

A woman asked Wuerch why he didn't apologize.

''I quite honestly have no apology for the way it was handled. I think we should have an apology for the way the children behaved. But that's another subject,'' the mayorsaid.

Later, after hearing from multiple parents alleging improper force by police, Wuerch apologized to any families whose children were mistreated.

Police Capt. Audie Holloway said reviews so far don't indicate any excessive force.

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