Cops bust knife-wielding man at Staples

Updated: March 20, 2011, 2:54 AM ET
ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- A steak knife-wielding man held police and security guards at bay for nearly half an hour at the Staples Center before the Los Angeles Clippers' game Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, authorities said.

The center's general manager, Lee Zeidman, said the man, who was not identified, walked into the venue through an employee entrance. He said security officers tried to block his entry, but the man was brandishing the blade.

[+] EnlargeStaples Center
AP PhotoFans wait outside Staples Center after being evacuated before police apprehended a knife-wielding man who ran onto the court prior to tipoff.

"He tried to enter the doors and we tried to secure him and stop him ... he pulled out a knife at that point and told our officers in no uncertain terms to get away from him," Zeidman told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday.

The man ran to the arena floor, where he was met by 25 security staffers who surrounded him until police arrived.

He eventually made his way to the visiting bench, where he spoke to three police officers with their guns drawn from approximately 20 feet away.

Zeidman said the man made no demands or offer a motive for his actions.

"He was talking a lot of gibberish, making a lot of veiled threats, and nobody could really understand him," Zeidman said. "There were no specific demands. He told us: 'Just back away or else you're going to get hurt. Leave me alone. I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to get whatever I want.'"

Police shot the man with a beanbag gun and detained him after he made a move toward a tunnel leading off the court. He was placed in handcuffs and escorted out by police.

Officer Norma Eisenman, a Los Angeles police spokeswoman, confirmed the man's arrest and said an off-duty officer reported the incident, but did not release other details.

Spectators with VIP access to the 12:30 p.m. PT game had begun filing into the arena, but were evacuated once the incident began. Players from both teams watched the drama unfold on a TV outside the Cavaliers' dressing room before they were instructed to return to their locker rooms.

"That was crazy, man. There aren't too many knife standoffs in Oklahoma -- not that I can remember. So it's a first for me," said Clippers All-Star rookie Blake Griffin. "I was sitting in here next to [DeAndre Jordan], and Randy Foye came in and said: `Yo, somebody just pulled a knife.' I was like, `What?' And then they explained the whole thing. We were trapped in here for a while. But both teams had to go through it, so it didn't really put us at a disadvantage."

The court was reopened to players, media and arena employees 18 minutes after the man's arrest. The incident did not delay the start of the game.

Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and his Cavaliers counterpart, Byron Scott, requested extra time for their teams to warm up, but were turned down. The Clippers went on to a 100-92 victory.

"It was a weird day, period," Scott said. "You had things happen throughout the day, but you've just got kind of put it in the back of your mind and play basketball. And I think both teams did that."

The Los Angeles Kings were scheduled to play the Anaheim Ducks at 7:30 p.m. local time, also at Staples Center.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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