Plan includes covering tunnels to locker rooms

Updated: November 20, 2004, 7:03 PM ET
Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The Detroit Pistons plan to have more police and unarmed security personnel at games following one of the worst brawls in U.S. sports history.

Beginning with Sunday night's game against Charlotte, the Pistons will double the number of armed police at The Palace, with about 20 in the arena, and increase other unarmed security personnel by about 25 percent.

"We're going to go back to what we call playoff security," Pistons CEO Tom Wilson said Saturday. "We will do that for the foreseeable future."

The Pistons are beefing up their security measures following an ugly brawl Friday night in their game against the Indiana Pacers.

It all started when Detroit's Ben Wallace went in for a layup and was fouled hard from behind by Ron Artest. Events escalated when Artest stormed into the stands after being hit by a full cup.

Indiana's Stephen Jackson joined Artest in the crowd and threw punches at fans. Later, fans who came onto the court were punched in the face by Artest and O'Neal.

Artest, O'Neal, Jackson and Wallace were suspended indefinitely by the NBA on Saturday.

The league expects to have its investigation completed by Sunday night. Auburn Hills police are conducting their own investigation.

Auburn Hills deputy chief Jim Mynsberge said investigators are reviewing film of the five-minute melee using the cameras of various media outlets and are interviewing witnesses and players. After the police investigation is complete, Mynsberge said the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office will determine if charges will be filed.

"The whole fiasco could take weeks to decide," Oakland County prosecutor David Gorcyca said Saturday.

Wilson acknowledged lawsuits from fans were a possibility because nine people, including two taken to a hospital, were treated for minor injuries

"There were some people that were injured and there will be consequences from that, I'm sure," Wilson said.

Wilson said the team will likely add a protective covering over the tunnels leading to the locker rooms but did not think the court would be lined with police and security personnel.

"We've never had this problem before. Nobody has really ever had this problem before," he said. "We're looking at adding a more visible presence so people can understand and see that we're adjusting to what became a new reality.

"It's incredibly unfortunate thing for our team, our city, our league and sports in general. The fact that you didn't know when it was going to be over was the scariest part," he said.

Wilson did not absolve the unidentified fan who incited mayhem by throwing a cup at Artest but said Artest should not have gone into the stands.

"When a player leaves the court and goes into the stands, you cross the line," Wilson said. "We're paid a lot of money not to do that because nothing good can happen when you leave the court."

Artest threw punches as he climbed over seats.

"He was on top of me, pummeling me," said fan Mike Ryan. "He asked me, 'Did you do it?' I said, 'No, man. No!'"

Wilson said the team would consider taking away tickets of any fan involved.

Detroit's Rasheed Wallace, who tried to break up the fight in the stands, said he felt safe.

"I can defend myself," he said. "I'm a grown man. The only thing I won't do is step to a guy with a gun or something."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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