"Pistons coaches blamed in brawl
In police report, the Pacers' Carlisle and his players also criticize lax security
By David Shepardson / The Detroit News
The investigation, page by page
Police compiled an 871-page report in investigating the brawl at The Palace on Nov. 19 between the Pistons, the Pacers, and several fans. The Detroit News has obtained the full report, which had not previously been released to the public. It reveals previously unreported details of the incident that commanded the attention of sports fans nationwide. Here are some excerpts:
Pacer Message Boards
AUBURN HILLS -- Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle blamed Detroit Pistons coaches and lax security for the Nov. 19 brawl at the Palace, according to an 871-page police report of the incident obtained by The Detroit News.
"I think Detroit is very understaffed security wise, having been there for two years," Carlisle said in a Nov. 20 statement to an NBA security official. "This whole thing could have been prevented but the Detroit coaching staff did not get involved. They did not properly remove (Pistons forward) Ben (Wallace) from the floor. Ben threw his towel and that was the cue to start throwing things at Ron (Artest)."
Although Carlisle has publicly avoided criticizing the Pistons organization, for which he was head coach from 2001-03, his comments were among more than 60 statements by players, team officials and announcers included in the Auburn Hills police report. The report -- which has not been released publicly by police -- provides insight into the chaos surrounding one of the ugliest brawls in sports history.
Even leaving The Palace of Auburn Hills was a test for the Pacers, according to team trainer David Craig.
"The police escort we received in Detroit was the worst I have ever seen," Craig told NBA security. "Cars were cutting in between us, and anyone could have taken a potshot at us."
David Harrison, a Pacers player, told NBA security: "On the bus out of there, they told us to keep our heads down."
The NBA has not notified the Pistons of Carlisle's comments or concerns, said team spokesman Matt Dobek. He said that Carlisle never complained about security when he was the Pistons head coach.
"He never made that statement when he was here," said Dobek, who added that it was unfair to judge the team on a single incident.
Dobek was concerned on the night of the brawl, however.
"I was afraid someone might be killed," he told the NBA the next day. Dobek said Friday that he no longer feels that the situation was such a threat.
The Palace now has added more uniformed police near team benches.
Pacers spokesman David Benner could not be reached for comment Friday. John Daniels, the NBA's director of facilities security, who interviewed Carlisle and Craig among other personnel, declined to comment Friday.
Beyond security concerns, the report reveals details of the investigation that led to criminal charges against five Pacers and seven fans in the nationally televised melee.
Artest, Stephen Jackson, Harrison and Anthony Johnson were each charged with one count of assault and battery. Jermaine O'Neal, a three-time NBA All-Star, was charged with two counts of assault and battery. They are to appear at a Jan. 25 hearing in Rochester Hills.
Artest also was banned for the season, Jackson for 30 games and O'Neal for 25, which was later reduced to
15. Wallace got a 6-game suspension. Pacer Anthony Johnson sat five games and Pacer Reggie Miller and Pistons Chauncey Billups, Elden Campbell and Derrick Coleman were suspended for one game each.
Five fans were charged by the prosecutor with misdemeanor assault and battery, including Bryant Jackson, who was charged with felony assault for throwing a chair during the game.
The police report discloses:
Ben Wallace helped police identify his brother as one of the fans involvedin the incident. "(Pistons President Joe ) Dumars then stated that Mr. Wallace wanted to do the right thing and identify the person as his brother David Wallace," Detective Brian Martin wrote. David Wallace was among those charged.
Prosecutors used a Nov. 30 investigative subpoena to obtain from the NBA the statements from coaches, players and personnel. Many declined to be interviewed by police. The statements obtained by The News haven't been turned over to the Pistons, Dobek said.
One fan who filed a federal suit against the Pacers and two players for assault had a history of alleged incidents at the Palace. He threatened to pour a drink on Houston Rockets star Yao Ming at a game earlier in November. That fan, Charlie Haddad, was banned Dec. 2 from the Palace. He was confronted at half-time during the Nov. 19 game with the Pacers by Palace security officials.
Police got hundreds of tips that didn't pan out, including a woman who said the chair-thrower was a male exotic dancer by the stage name "Low Key" or "Kool Kat Daddy" in Detroit. Another tip came from a pastor who reported one of his parishioners could identify the cup-thrower.
Coaches turned to referees for help during the brawl, but got none. Game official Tommy Nunez was struck with a pop bottle that left a welt on his head.. He and the other two referees are listed as potential prosecution witnesses.
The melee began in the closing seconds of a lopsided Pacers victory. Following a hard foul by Artest, Ben Wallace pushed Artest. Although Wallace was not charged, Auburn Hills Police Officer Greg Super described it in his initial report from the Palace as "an assault and battery retaliation by Mr. B Wallace."
Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca said Saturday that Wallace's conduct did not amount to a criminal act. "I'm not going to start criminalizing fouls in a basketball game," Gorcyca. "In theory, we could have charged both Artest and Wallace with assault for hitting each other, but that's something that the NBA can handle."
While reclined on the scorer's table, Artest used a vulgar phrase in addressing Wallace, Dobek told NBA security. Wallace threw an item at Artest.
After a fan -- later identified by police as John Green, 39, of Bloomfield Hills -- threw a cup that hit Artest, the player charged into the stands and grabbed another fan. Other players charged into the stands and numerous fights ensued.
Details of individual confrontations, impossible to hear on video, are detailed in the police report.
"I grabbed (Indiana Pacers player Reggie) Miller by his shirt initially trying to direct him out of the court area, to which he swatted my hand away and told me I was not to grab him," Super wrote.
Miller refused to talk to NBA security without a lawyerpresent, but said he'd like to cooperate, according to the NBA report. Gorcyca said he reviewed the incident, but declined to bring a charge -- a decision Auburn Hills polic agreed with, he said.
Indiana Pacers player Austin Croshere reported that "I just missed getting hit with the chair by five feet."
Some players said little or denied hitting anyone -- even if the videotapes showed otherwise.
Fred Jones, a Pacers player, said the players "were fighting for our life because you don't know what a fan has."
"I didn't feel myself get hit. But after looking at the video and feeling the after-effects, I did get hit," Green told NBA security on Nov. 20.
Pacer Scott Pollard expressed his displeasure with the security efforts during the melee. "I yelled at security to get the (expletive) fans off the court," Pollard told NBA security.
Former Piston Rick Mahorn said he went into the crowd to protect a fan who was stepped on.
"One woman, Nancy, who I know had just had an operation," Mahorn said. "That's why I went there. It was scary."
Pistons coach Larry Brown placed blame on the Pacers' conduct, especially Stephen Jackson for "taunting" the Pistons bench and Artest for committing an "excessive" foul.
"Jackson was mouthing off, screaming and pulling up his shirt," Brown told NBA security.
Gorcyca called Pacers' statements to NBA security "self serving." He said the Pacers refused to cooperate during the inviestigation. "The NBA and the Pistons were extremely cooperative," Gorcyca said.
Brown unsuccessfully tried to the get the referees involved after players went into the stands.
"I yelled at (referee) Ron Garretson to do something and Garretson said it was not his job," Brown said.
Carlisle noted the officials' reactions. "I think the referees just simply left. They called the game and simply left," he said.
Referee Ron Garretson, of Gilbert, Ariz., told Auburn Hills police in a signed statement: "Mayhem was ensuing. There was another fight in front of the Indiana bench. I walked over to the scorer's table and informed the scorer's table that the game was over I got my partners and we headed to our locker room."
In the locker room after the brawl, Pacers assistant trainer Josh Corbeil said he "had to (give basic first aid) to nine players and staff as a result of cuts, bruises and swelling."
'Am I in trouble?'
After the incident, police assigned several detectives to the case full-time.
Green called police Nov. 21 after he reported that several people told him he was the cup-thrower. A detective went to Green's house and tape-recorded an interview with him.
"I grabbed Artest ... Did you see Jackson hit me?" Green said. "Those guys shouldn't have come into the stands like that, especially when they have the wrong guy."
In the middle of the interview, Green decided he wanted to talk to his lawyer -- who was in Las Vegas. After the detective spoke to the lawyer, he agreed to end the interview.
"I handed the phone back to Mr. Green and he asked me, 'Am I in trouble?'." the detective wrote.
Lots of people phoned tips that turned out to be wild goose chases, from a local TV employee to other police agencies.
A Channel 4 employee phoned to report that the station had received an anonymous tip identifying a Southfield man as the chair thrower. The Michigan State Police's gaming unit recognized a man who looked like the chair thrower at Motor City Casino on Nov 26.
Motor City security followed the man and took surveillance photos of the man that were turned over to Auburn Hills police.
A local pastor reported that one of his parishioners, a high-school girl, attended the game and saw who threw the cup. "As a pastor, it would not be good PR if parishioners knew that I reported comments I overheard to the police," the man wrote in an e-mail to Auburn Hills Deputy Chief Jim Mynsberge.
After getting subpoenas to get videotape from WDIV and WXYZ, police went to DaimlerChrysler's production studios on Nov. 24 to view the footage that was on special format videotapes.
An Oakland Press reporter and a free-lance photographer for the Associated Press said they each had laptop computers worth more than $1,500 destroyed in the melee.
Dobek said the only real changes in security have been the additional police at games.
"We've had one incident in 16 years and the league's never said anything about our security," Dobek said. "Things are basically back to normal."
You can reach David Shepardson at (313) 222-2028 or firstname.lastname@example.org."
As a sidenote: nice the Detroitnews makes a directlink to the IndyStar messageboard, so if it wasn't "polluted" by trolls enough it surely will be hell there pretty soon, I guess.
here's the link to the whole page including complete pages from the report: