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Archive for Monday, May 4, 1998

FOUR MEN WERE ARRESTED FOLLOWING A MELEE INVOLVING MORE THAN 200 PEOPLE DOWNTOWN EARLY SUNDAY.

May 4, 1998

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An apparent night of partying at a downtown club spilled into fighting in the street early Sunday, and it took about 20 police and sheriff's officers about an hour to break it up.

There were no serious injuries, police said.

Four Lawrence men were arrested on misdemeanor charges stemming from the fights: Avery Demond Randle, 23, John Henry Johnson Jr., 21, Bilal Lamont Cook, 20, and Jermaine Edward Cromerdie, 21, were each arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct.

Cook also was arrested on a charge of obstruction of the legal process and Randle was arrested on additional charges of obstruction of the legal process and battery on a law enforcement officer.

More than 200 people were believed to be involved in the early morning disturbance that blocked part of Massachusetts Street.

It started about 2 a.m. outside the Varsity Theater, 1015 Mass., which is now rented to groups for private parties and events.

``The crowd was fine until that first fight broke out, then the crowd just turned,'' said police Sgt. Kirk Fultz. ``It was like pouring gasoline on a fire.''

``Different things continued to spark a bunch of different fights,'' said police Sgt. Susan Hadl. ``There weren't enough officers to squelch it quickly.''

It wasn't immediately clear what activity was being held at the theater before the fighting started. But police said the crowd consisted mainly of young adults and not high school students.

Police believe that the fighting broke out when a group of people attacked one individual and that the melee escalated from there.

The original victim, contacted by officers and told to stay in a specific location, left the scene while officers were intervening in a series of fights, Fultz said. Officers have not located the man.

A melee of similar proportions occurred Aug. 9, 1996, when fights among a crowd of about 200 people erupted after bars had closed. Five men were arrested in that incident, also in the 1000 block of Massachusetts.

After that incident, some people accused police of using pepper spray to quell the disturbance. No spray was used in Sunday's incident, police said.

-- Mike Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is mdekker@ljworld.com.

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