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Updated Mar 30, 2014, 7:32 pm Originally posted Mar 29, 2014, 11:06 pm
Fifteen people were arrested Saturday night after Tucson police used pepper-ball rounds to clear hundreds from University Boulevard in the wake of the Wildcats' loss in the NCAA tournament.
Sunday night, TPD identified the 15 who were arrested, saying that nine were current University of Arizona students (see sidebar).
Dozens of Tucson police cordoned off University between Park and Euclid avenues and used riot-control tactics to disperse several hundred people who gathered on the street after a dramatic loss by the UA basketball team.
About 30 minutes after the game ended in a one-point overtime loss, crowds leaving bars and restaurants filled the street just outside the university. At first, the crowds "appeared to be calm," said TPD Sgt. Pete Dugan. "As the crowd grew larger police began asking individuals to start moving out of the streets, however the crowd did not respond."
Officers already on scene demanded the crowd disperse, declaring the throng an "unlawful assembly." The message was repeated on social media.
After what TPD Sgt. Pete Dugan called a "reasonable amount of time," officers told the crowd that they would be arrested if they remained.
"The majority of the crowd did not respond to the dispersal order and began throwing beer bottles, beer cans and firecrackers at the officers," Dugan said.
Officers responded with pepper-balls and OC canisters—small explosive devices that throw out clouds of pepper spray, as well as plastic bullets and foam baton rounds.
"As the crowd began to move closer to the officers, pepper ball rounds were used in an attempt to disperse the crowd. Several individuals continued to advance at the officers and were taken into custody," Dugan said.
Fifteen people were arrested on charges including disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly and resisting arrest, Dugan said. Three of those detained had minor injuries, the police spokesman said.
Fourteen of those arrested were cited and released, and one was booked into the Pima County Jail.
"At this time it appears no officers were injured during the incident and the only damage reported was a street sign that had been knocked over," he said.
Mark Silverman, who watched the clash unfold from a restaurant, was frustrated with the police response. "The police started it," he said. "If they had just waited, the crowd would have dispersed on their own, but instead the police instigated the whole thing."
Police fired two Arwenn (plastic bullet) rounds, four foam baton rounds, nine OC aerosol vapor canisters and about 200 pepper-ball rounds, Dugan said.
Arizona lost 64-63 to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight final in Anaheim, Calif.
Police said the UA dean of students would be notified regarding those arrested who are UA students.