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August 19, 2002
9:23 AM   Subscribe

Lesson learned in Houston, Texas yesterday: shop at a 24-hour Kmart in the middle of the night, go directly to jail. If you're a 10-year-old girl having a late dinner with your father at the next door Sonic, well, it's off to jail with you, too.
posted by ewagoner (103 comments total)

 
That's just plain dumb on the cops' part.
You can hear the lawyers shuffling their papers and handing out business cards from all the way up here in Chicago.
posted by me3dia at 9:30 AM on August 19, 2002


DeLeon said he did not have more details about the incident because the two captains in charge of the raid, M.A. Aguirre and J.P. Mokwa, were sleeping Sunday after working all night.


They're also resting up for the big job hunt they'll be starting on Monday.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:32 AM on August 19, 2002


Well that's the scariest thing I've seen in a while. Mind boggling.
posted by callmejay at 9:32 AM on August 19, 2002


I know teens in every town have their saturday night hang out spots, most often around fast food joints. If the giant group of teens had become a problem, the next step is usually to have police drive through the area asking kids to disperse and go home, or to post signs warning teens against loitering in the area. To completely blanket an area, showing no discretion while arresting everyone with no thought as to who is actually committing any wrongdoing is ridiculous.

I'm sure the Houston PD will be getting a lot of little lawsuits over this, and hopefully it'll help them use some judgement next time teens hanging out becomes a problem.
posted by mathowie at 9:32 AM on August 19, 2002


What kind of a police state (nation) are we devolving into?
posted by Beansidhe at 9:33 AM on August 19, 2002


"Hello, ACLU. Welcome to Houston!"
posted by Dirjy at 9:38 AM on August 19, 2002


As if K-Mart doesn't have enough of an image problem.
"Come here and get arrested ... but give us your money first."
Since it's Texass, I suppose the black kids that were there will get the death penalty.
posted by Dillenger69 at 9:44 AM on August 19, 2002


Bad Cops (i.e. a-holes, crooks, abusers of power) SUCK!
posted by mikepet at 9:52 AM on August 19, 2002


Not to condone what the police did or anything, but I hate going to a 24 hour place and having to deal with young thugs in the parking lot. I know that this makes me sound like a grumpy old man.

Also, I suspect that this was the final act in a long, long play. I'm sure the lot-lizards were asked to vacate plenty of times before the wrath of the cops fell upon them.
posted by ColdChef at 9:57 AM on August 19, 2002


I have a question - can anybody recommend a good history of law enforcement book and/or site?

I googled for a bit, and came up with some interesting dates - London established the Watch and Ward in 1252, and the first metropolitan police dept. in 1829. Boston established the first police dept. in the new world (the Night Watch) in 1631 and the first fulltime paid police dept. in 1712.

My question is this - who enforced the laws and dragged people to appear in court before the establishment of the modern police department?
posted by Irontom at 10:04 AM on August 19, 2002


Oops - posted too quickly. The follow up question is this - would it be possible to return to that previous model, whatever it was?
posted by Irontom at 10:05 AM on August 19, 2002


Irontom - the answer to your first question is "mob justice".
You might want to rephrase your second question. :)
posted by PrinceValium at 10:11 AM on August 19, 2002


ColdChef: according to all accounts, there was no selection whatsoever on the part of the police, and many shoppers were arrested as well. I mean, a 10-year-old girl is not exactly a 'thug.'

This is the best part of the entire article:

"We asked police why we were being arrested, and they said, `Everybody is receiving equal treatment from the Houston Police Department tonight.' It didn't matter what you were doing; they arrested you."

Equal treatment. Priceless. Ya gotta love moral relativism at its finest.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:19 AM on August 19, 2002


PrinceValium - thanks for the smarmy answer.

Do any of our other 15,000+ members have anything more thoughtful to say?
posted by Irontom at 10:22 AM on August 19, 2002


Reminds me of what my grandfather would tell me about the Soviet police, if they saw more than two people standing around talking to one another they would go up to you and start asking questions, such as why are you here, what are you up to.

Also, I feel sorry for the 18 and 19 year-olds that got arrested. In most other countries they'd be able to hang out at a bar or a club instead of the K-Mart parking lot.

What are these kids suppossed to do, stay in their bedrooms till they're 21?
posted by bobo123 at 10:22 AM on August 19, 2002


Also, I suspect that this was the final act in a long, long play. I'm sure the lot-lizards were asked to vacate plenty of times before the wrath of the cops fell upon them.

Right, but I think most people are objecting to what appears to be the indiscriminate arrest of any minor in the vicinity. In my limited experience, the police usually order a crowd to disperse before making arrests, which it doesn't appear that they did in this case.

Of course, 30 years ago there would have been two or three hundred more of us there tonight just spoiling for a run-in with the cops. The good old days.
posted by norm29 at 10:23 AM on August 19, 2002


I like how the article mentions the grades and acheivements of some of the kids arrested.

I wonder what would've been written if they weren't doing so hot in school.
posted by ODiV at 10:25 AM on August 19, 2002


I thought this kind of thing only happened at Wal-Mart...
posted by bucko at 10:29 AM on August 19, 2002


We should keep in mind that this action took place at 12:30 am. Not exactly peak shopping hours.

"We went to use the restroom at Kmart and to buy a Scrunchi (hair band), and when we came back to our car, cops were coming in (the parking lot) and they tied our hands,"

Went out at 12:30 in the morning to buy a scrunchi? Riiiiggghhhhtttt.

"They even arrested a 10-year-old girl who was having dinner with her father and took her to juvenile detention.

Dinner at 12:30 am. Hmmm. I would think a 10 year old would be fast asleep at that time. Should check out Dad to see what his story is.

"He tried to go to Kmart and as soon as he got to Kmart he was arrested."

For what? Let's all look at the clock again. 12:30 am.

Come on folks. I was a teenager once. I have been down this road, as have you all in your own way. Houston Police have a much different way of dealing with this though.
posted by a3matrix at 10:34 AM on August 19, 2002


What kind of a police state (nation) are we devolving into?

Oh, would you settle down please. The hysteria you feed is tiresome.

The cops were wrong to take the problem to the extent they did. But I'm SURE they had good reason to be there in the first place. I'm also sure they will pay a certain price for their indiscretion. For those who were wrongly arrested... it's just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Shite happens. It's not like they're going to have a record or anything.
posted by Witty at 10:35 AM on August 19, 2002


425 people seems like a large amount to be hanging around a parking lot at midnight. Was I just never popular enough to get invited to the huge K-Mart parties in high school?
posted by redsparkler at 10:39 AM on August 19, 2002


a3matrix: Why not do this stuff at 12:30? K-mart is open.
posted by ODiV at 10:50 AM on August 19, 2002


PrinceValium - thanks for the smarmy answer.

Looks like someone's got a case of the Mondays.
posted by PrinceValium at 10:51 AM on August 19, 2002


It's not like they're going to have a record or anything.

You are kidding, right? Of course they're going to have a record.

And I don't know where you live, a3matrix, but around here 12:30 is hardly that late. I eat regularly around that time. I go out for coffee even more regularly around that time. I even, yes, shop for mundane household items at giant chain stores around that time. Do you have a point, exactly?
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:51 AM on August 19, 2002


In urban or less-well-off suburban areas, stores that are 24 hours assume a certain amount of risk with regard to crime, loitering, etc. This was a stupid situation, but ultimately K-mart has shot itself in the foot by discouraging people to take advantage of its all-night hours.
posted by PrinceValium at 10:55 AM on August 19, 2002


Went out at 12:30 in the morning to buy a scrunchi? Riiiiggghhhhtttt.

Why not? The point of a store is that you can buy anything you want that's for sale. Should you get arrested because you spent less than $5 at a store which also sells TV sets?
posted by PrinceValium at 10:58 AM on August 19, 2002


You are kidding, right? Of course they're going to have a record.

No... I don't think all 425 people are going to have records, especially the 10 year-old girl. Any and all of these people will have a day in court and I can't see the "truly innocent" not being able to have their charges dropped. Anyone who doesn't fight it, probably deserved to be arrested.
posted by Witty at 11:00 AM on August 19, 2002


I like how the article mentions the grades and acheivements of some of the kids arrested.

Though the raid sounds ridiculous, I have trouble believing this unbalanced story -- the paper takes a couple of teen-agers and parents completely at their word, quotes hearsay like the stuff about the 10-year-old girl, doesn't talk at all about what kind of problems might have preceded the event, and doesn't have any substantive information from police about why it took place. (Part of this is the fault of the police; you'd think they would prep a spokesflack before arresting teen-agers by the gross.)

As for the claims of innocent diners and shoppers wrongfully detained, I'll bet at least 350 of those teens would tell a reporter they were either eating food from Sonic or had just come out of K-Mart after middle-of-the-night shopping trips for bottled water, Scrunchis, and the like. That's certainly what I would've claimed, regardless of whether it was actually true.
posted by rcade at 11:03 AM on August 19, 2002


a3matrix: We should keep in mind that this action took place at 12:30 am. Not exactly peak shopping hours.

When I was going to school in Orlando, I used to do my grocery shopping after 1:00am on a regular basis, thereby avoiding all of the crowds (and getting better-quality vegetables that hadn't been handled by hundreds of previous shoppers) thanks to the 24-hour supermarkets there. I've gone to Wal-Mart at midnight to buy a pair of headphones. I still regularly hit up Safeway after midnight now that I live in Seattle.

When you're young and sleep means little to you, 24-hour stores and restaurants are a boon. I'm not sure which planet you're from, a3matrix, but if a store is open, regardless of the time, customers have every right to be there.
posted by Danelope at 11:07 AM on August 19, 2002


At least they weren't black or latino, because then we would hear that it was "gang activity"...
posted by owillis at 11:07 AM on August 19, 2002


1/2 hour after a saturday night. yeah, wow, that's real "middle of the night". and don't you think if this had been the culmination of a serious problem with youths gathering that the fact would have been mentioned in the report? instead everyone is going "what the fuck is up with those cops?" including parents and reporters. "Everybody is receiving equal treatment from the Houston Police Department tonight." yeah, that napoleonic little emperor in a blue suit needs his face slapped repeatedly, his gun and badge replaced with overalls and a shovel and perhaps to spend the next year or so patrolling the municipal garbage dump. there ought to be a law against large numbers of cops congregating, since cops in a crowd always seem to forget who they work for.
posted by quonsar at 11:08 AM on August 19, 2002


Shite happens. It's not like they're going to have a record or anything.

At least one girl pled "guilty" just because she couldn't afford bail. Did the cops read her her rights? Did she know what she was pleading to? Civil rights lawyers are looking at a freak'n buffet here.

And seperating the little girl from her father - WTF was that about? Lucky for them there wasn't a marauding kidnapper roaming the lot too, or we could throw another Amber Alert into the mix.

Patronising stores, even at 12:30am, does not equal loitering.
posted by junkbox at 11:08 AM on August 19, 2002


Dinner at 12:30 am. Hmmm. I would think a 10 year old would be fast asleep at that time. Should check out Dad to see what his story is.

Because after all, in the New America, we are all guilty until proven innocent. Why else would we need so many informants to keep an eye out on us? Late dinner is obviously suspicious behavior.
posted by briank at 11:10 AM on August 19, 2002


Oh, would you settle down please. The hysteria you feed is tiresome.

The cops were wrong to take the problem to the extent they did. But I'm SURE they had good reason to be there in the first place. I'm also sure they will pay a certain price for their indiscretion. For those who were wrongly arrested... it's just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Shite happens. It's not like they're going to have a record or anything.
posted by Witty at 10:35 AM PST on August 19


Your complacency is amazing. Not unusual, but amazing none the less.

While the cops may have had a good reason to be there, how can you be so sure? Also, how can you be sure they will pay a price for their indiscretion? Cops routinely get away with FAR worse...
posted by ruggles at 11:13 AM on August 19, 2002


Dinner at 12:30 am. Hmmm. I would think a 10 year old would be fast asleep at that time. Should check out Dad to see what his story is.

When I was ten, my parents would sometimes take me to a late movie. Afterwards, we would go and get a bite to eat and talk about the movie.

It was a big exciting deal for me at the time. I got to stay up late and hang out with the adults.

I'm not saying that she was with her father, and I'm not saying she was no with her father, I'm just saying that a ten year old at a diner at 12:30pm on a Saturday night with her dad is not all that far-fetched.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:17 AM on August 19, 2002


Late dinner is obviously suspicious behavior.

I heard that's when the pedophiles eat.
posted by ODiV at 11:18 AM on August 19, 2002


10-year olds seperated from their fathers and placed in Juvie. Cars towed for no reason, wrist injuries due to incompetent police procedure, arrest even in the face of legal proof that someone was a customer at the store they were arrested at for trespassing.

Look, I'm not all excited and wet about the idea of the legal system being brought to another slowdown because of the massive level of lawsuits this story will likely contain in the final chapter, whenever that's written- but I would love to hear anyone try to give me a spin about this story that doesn't condone an influx of civil lawyers to the area at such a high rate that the region actually gains another Congressman. I think the Houston Chronicle is aware of this as well... I mean, how often do you see a news story with a detailed roadmap of how to get to the area?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:19 AM on August 19, 2002


We should keep in mind that this action took place at 12:30 am. Not exactly peak shopping hours.

What's wrong with it? Why not go shopping at 12:30? Are you asserting that there is something virtuous about being the sort of person who likes to go to bed early?

Maybe you're one of those people who likes to get up early, but not all of us share your preference. Until I took a job starting at 7 AM, I routinely stayed up til 3 AM. Shopping trips at midnight were quite normal. Teenagers are notoriously nocturnal. Why force them to live on the schedule you prefer?

You ask what they were doing at 12:30 AM in a parking lot. I want to know the same thing: why a parking lot? Why was there nowhere else they could go? Why has American society clamped down on teenagers so hard? Why don't we just lay off and let kids be kids, instead of suppressing them for a decade and then - in a massive spurt of whiplash - grant them the keys to adulthood?
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:22 AM on August 19, 2002


Um, methinks based on some of the posts here that some of you may have not had much real experience with the Houston and surrounding area police forces in action. While this incident represents a particularly outstanding example of bad policing, it is not that unusual in my experience. In 1978 in a North Houston neighborhood pool hall I had never been in before, I was singled out by two cops who proceeded to grill me on "where the drugs are." After questioning me for several minutes, I was invited outside for further discussions - "so we didn't disturb the other patrons" - upon which I was placed under arrest for public intoxication (I had had 3 beers in the preceding 2 1/2 hours). When I requested a breath or blood test, I was informed they weren't required as evidence of probable cause was the arresting officer's professional opinion that I was a hazard to myself or those around me - a single beer was sufficient to get hauled in thereby. No touching finger to nose, bending over & touching toes, walking the line - nothing. This despite the fact that, as we walked out the door, the plainclothes detective chatted with a guy who was obviously drunk & knew the detective by name - he, however, wasn't picked up.

Off to jail we went. There was a Hispanic kid in the back of the car with me who was mouthing off about knowing the sheriff's daughter (in a biblical sense), etc. - generally being a dumbass. He ended up paying the $39.50 PI charge & taking a plea. When my turn came to make a call I phoned my brother, a lawyer - I could tell the exact second he told the desk sergeant he was a member of the Texas bar - the sarge looked up at me with a, "Whoops, he slipped the hook" look.

My corporate lawyer brother did a little research - at the time it would have cost me a minimum of $350 to get a regular attorney to represent my case - the reason most people of reduced means copped a plea & paid the fine. Of course, later on when they get in some real trouble they have this on their record. We went to court in Humble, where the plainclothes captain of detectives (complete with chromed .357 pistols) proceeded to perjure himself, saying I had been stumbling around drunkenly waving a pool cue shouting obscenities when they first saw me (actually I had been putting a quarter in tech Jukebox). The uniformed cops testimony was a little conflicting, and when the bartender testified that it was all B.S. the judge started laughing & dismissed the case. I'm sure they made a lot of revenue for the city of Humble that way.

It's called a roust. While speaking with a part-time deputy in holding, he told me they used to do this sort of thing frequently at clubs, putting out a dragnet and taking multiple kids in. There was some sort of city political beef between the city of Houston and county sheriffs' departments over "who was in charge" & this was how they played out their demonstrations of territorial power. Wrong place, wrong time.
posted by Pressed Rat at 11:23 AM on August 19, 2002


Also, I feel sorry for the 18 and 19 year-olds that got arrested. In most other countries they'd be able to hang out at a bar or a club instead of the K-Mart parking lot.

I know that part of Houston a little bit and I seem to remember an all-ages club just a little further out on Westheimer.

No, I wouldn't want to hang out there either.

Happily, I never had to sink to such a level. I was out on my own yet underage for four long, long years, and so can attest to the fact that in a big city, there are a lot of clubs that will let you in at 18 and up. Just won't give you the magical Wristband of Beer.

They weren't *forced by the oppressive ageist American society* to hang out on the K-Mart parking lot, is what I'm saying. Not in Houston, ferdamnsure.

However:

12:30 am. Not exactly peak shopping hours.

Which is EXACTLY THE REASON to go to K-Mart at 12:30 a.m. Far fewer overworked moms failing to keep adequate track of their brood of eight rowdy rugrats, etc. It makes for much faster shopping for your small-village-sized vat of laundry detergent, or whatever. And, yeah, same thing when I was 17: 17-year-olds gotta buy detergent too. Those who don't live in Mom and Dad's basement, anyway.
posted by Sapphireblue at 11:29 AM on August 19, 2002


"...but if a store is open, regardless of the time, customers have every right to be there."

True. But not hanging out in the parking lot, loitering, being loud, harassing REAL customers, trashing the place, illegal drinking and smoking (drugs), "burning rubber", vandalism, etc.

Of course, I'm only making assumptions as to this type of activity. But that's what 425 teenagers in a parking lot, after midnight, do.

I'm sure if K-Mart saw a tremendous spike in revenue on those nights, there wouldn't be a story. But that ain't the case.

quonsar: "Everybody is receiving equal treatment from the Houston Police Department tonight."

Would you be upset had they selectively snatched a few unlucky teens from the crowd as examples?
posted by Witty at 11:31 AM on August 19, 2002


Dinner at 12:30 am. Hmmm. I would think a 10 year old would be fast asleep at that time. Should check out Dad to see what his story is.

Because he's obviously a drug dealer, or a pedophile, or a terrorist, or something, if he takes his daughter to Sonic at 12:30am on a Saturday night. I'm wondering if you're using sarcasm here; if you are, you didn't do it very well.

Jesus Christ, what kind of Richard Nixon wet-dream world are we living in now? It was Saturday night. 12:30am on Saturday night is early, even for redneck authoritarians. The store was open for business. How in the fuck is shopping at a store that's OPEN or eating at a restaurant next door a crime? How can anything excuse what these cops have done? Even if you assume for the sake of argument that the kids that were hanging out in the parking lot were causing some kind of nuisance, even posing a threat, how does that even REMOTELY justify arresting that many people, including people who were inside the store or NOT EVEN ON THE PREMISES? I feel like I'm losing my mind, that anyone thinks this is at all acceptable, no matter what the hour of the night. What possible justification could there be?
posted by RylandDotNet at 11:31 AM on August 19, 2002


pressed rat: so, it's just business as usual in the land of the shrub.
posted by quonsar at 11:33 AM on August 19, 2002


Any and all of these people will have a day in court and I can't see the "truly innocent" not being able to have their charges dropped. Anyone who doesn't fight it, probably deserved to be arrested.

The truly innocent should never have been arrested in the first place. If the article is to be believed, several people were arrested having just left the store, purchases and receipts in hand, attempting to simply walk to their vehicles. Others were arrested while enjoying purchases made at an adjoining restaurant which is car service only (Sonic's are drive-ups, you cannot eat inside) which meant that by definition, they would be outside, and had a legitimate reason to be.

Even if the Sonic patrons got out of their cars or walked away from them to look to see what the police were doing, arresting people willy-nilly, they were not in violation of any law. Even if the KMart patrons slowed on their way to their cars, confused or concerned about what was happening in the parking lot, they were not in violation of any law. They were patrons of the establishments on the premises, not loitering, not thugs, and should not have been handcuffed and thrown in jail.

And btw, for those who questioned the scrunchie purchase, easy answer. Houston. August. Oppressive heat and humidity, even at midnight. Girl goes out for the night with hair down and is sweaty and sticky, and decides to stop and buy a scrunchie to alleviate the situation. While there, she chooses to go to a ladies' room that might actually be clean. Not so strange.
posted by Dreama at 11:35 AM on August 19, 2002


It's unfortunate how frequently you hear about mass arrests occurring in the United States. It will be even more unfortunate when we stop hearing about them.
posted by severed at 11:35 AM on August 19, 2002


Would you be upset had they selectively snatched a few unlucky teens from the crowd as examples?
thats hardly witty, witty, and it's a deliberate sleight of hand on your part - those words were attributed to a cop who was arresting someone without cause. those are the arrogant, snide words of a self-impressed bully who has no regard for what is right and legal. the last person on earth who ought to be given authority and a gun. and yes i would be upset had they done what you say - they need to do what is legal. arrest people who are breaking the law, not people who are inconveniently around at the time. [snidely whiplash voice] so, you from texas?
posted by quonsar at 11:38 AM on August 19, 2002


"While the cops may have had a good reason to be there, how can you be so sure? Also, how can you be sure they will pay a price for their indiscretion? Cops routinely get away with FAR worse..."

How can you be so willing to say any different? Talk about guilty until proven innocent. 425 teenagers "hanging out" in a parking lot is plenty reason enough. Like someone said earlier, many details seem to be missing from this story. I have a hard time believing that a bunch of cops just marched over there for the first time and decided to just throw everyone in jail because K-Mart complained.

Cops certainly get away with far worse. They also put up with far worse. They have the toughest, scariest, most dangerous job in this country (my opinion of course). I can't expect perfection from them... they're human. They make mistakes, they use poor judgement, they lose control. Sounds a little like me once in a while.
posted by Witty at 11:45 AM on August 19, 2002


"...so, you from texas?"

Nope... Virginia.

I knew it wouldn't be long for someone to use my login name as some sort of joke. S'ok though.... heard 'em all.

Loitering is illegal. Unauthorized use of someone else's property is illegal. I'm not trying to defend the actions of the police. From what I've read, they seem to have blown this way out of proportion and over reacted.

But I'm not so willing to participate in making wild broad statements about ALL police and "what's happening to this country".
posted by Witty at 11:52 AM on August 19, 2002


Quonsar

Actually this has nothing to do with the shrub, any more than it has to do with Algore. Before we degenerate into a partisan political rant let me just say that I've experienced not dissimilar behavior on the part of cops in Tennessee on occasion. Houston, because of it's size and other factors, seems a little more prone to cops excesses. But you might as well blame L.B.J. and John Connally as Bush. We're talking local politics here, not state/federal.
posted by Pressed Rat at 11:54 AM on August 19, 2002


Went out at 12:30 in the morning to buy a scrunchi? Riiiiggghhhhtttt.

I live in a college town. Our WalMart is open 24 hours. I bet there's not many nights that pass with out a girl buying a Scrunchi after midnight. Plus, according to the article, those girls were 18 and 21. Plenty old enough to buy a late-night Scrunchi. Finally, in the photo with the article, they prove themselves to be Scrunchi-wearers.

What gave me pause is that there were 425 people there, but even given that, and even given past problems with rowdy teens, I doubt that the police properly executed their authority. Plus, it sounds like many of the 425 were legitimate patrons of the shopping/dining area.

I feel like I'm losing my mind, that anyone thinks this is at all acceptable, no matter what the hour of the night.

RylandDotNet makes a good point. 12:30 on a Saturday is pretty early, but the hour isn't even relevant. If they have the 'right' to arrest people then, why not at 7pm on a Tuesday?
posted by donnagirl at 11:57 AM on August 19, 2002


From a hardliner's standpoint, from a person who possesses not an ounce of human flexibility and prefers to live life by the legislative letter, the kids could have been cited from either a trespassing and/or curfew standpoint.

But then it's our God-given duty to support the law here, folks. This will not stand until every section of the Texas Penal Code is enforced and nearly every Texan is behind bars. I shudder to meet those pernicious Texan criminals who commit sodomy or, heaven forbid, expose genitals to another person for sexual arousal (and that includes your matriomonial better half). They truly are the terrorists of this great nation. But then isn't everybody?
posted by ed at 12:00 PM on August 19, 2002


Witty: True. But not hanging out in the parking lot, loitering, being loud, harassing REAL customers, trashing the place, illegal drinking and smoking (drugs), "burning rubber", vandalism, etc. Of course, I'm only making assumptions as to this type of activity. But that's what 425 teenagers in a parking lot, after midnight, do.

Ignoring the fact that it wasn't "425 teenagers" (but "425 people", according to the article), you not only make rampant assumptions about what they were doing, but then go on to declare that this is what ANYONE in a similar location at a similar time is doing. Can you at least feign adhering to some sort of factual information before posting?

What at least some of these people were doing was eating dinner at an adjacent restaurant or walking out of the store with purchases in-hand, thereby invalidating everything you've just said.
posted by Danelope at 12:05 PM on August 19, 2002


By the way, here's the unbelievably slow Houston Police Department Home Page, which features news releases about recent incidents (though they haven't released a statement about the K-Mart raid yet.)

I like this one about a man who suddenly stopped breathing and died while the HPD were being "forced to restrain" him. Thank God the officer wasn't injured.
posted by Danelope at 12:10 PM on August 19, 2002


Danelope: Review my post that you're referring to. I said very clearly that I was making assumptions. But you can't honestly believe that NONE of the mentioned activity was occurring. 425 teenagers weren't gathering to "make the world a better place". It's true that, more than likely, a few bad apples spoiled it for everyone.

What at least some of these people were doing was eating dinner at an adjacent restaurant or walking out of the store with purchases in-hand, thereby invalidating everything you've just said.

Right. That's where the problem is. I've stated that I think the cops were wrong and over reacted. But any sensible person would agree that 425 teenagers hanging out in a parking lot is a recipe for trouble.
posted by Witty at 12:12 PM on August 19, 2002


i used to live in houston, on the same street mentioned in this article and dealt with that very crowd of people just about every saturday night, many times trying to get to that very k-mart. trust me when i say that the majority of these kids were not just innocent late-night shoppers as they claim to be. these crowds of kids are loud and aggresive.

revving your engine, booming your bass, and doing donuts in the parking lot until 5am? i think that qualifies as a disturbance worthy of being broken up. yet that chronicle article mentions none of that.

side note: after pushing my way through one of these crowds to get to that k-mart, i asked a the cashier if it bothered her. she said "yes, it drives us nuts, but the cops don't seem to want to do much about it." that was about a year and a half ago. these masses have been a regular occurence for quite a while.
posted by totee at 12:23 PM on August 19, 2002


When you have heard only one side of the story, isn't it a bit premature to reach a decision? This event sounds truly ugly and scary - but before I would be ready to condemn the officers involved for being fascist bullies, I would at least like to hear their version of events.

If the story as presented is a true and accurate portrayal of events - and is not omitting any salient facts, or distorting the nature of the event - then heads should roll in HPD.

But to throw them to the wolves without letting them have a chance to speak? Now that is scary.
posted by John Smallberries at 12:24 PM on August 19, 2002


I first heard about this on a car-modding site (people who like to soup up their honda civics and what-not), and here's what he had to say:
(quote)
So i go to court today to change an upcomming court date, and theres litterally a ton of people milling around and the line is ridicuoulsly long for any day much less a sunday.

After listening for a minute i realize that all these peope are here for the same thing.

Apparently last night along Westheimer the hot spot for car enthusiasts to gather on Sats were busted at a K Mart parking lot.

Ive been to this place before and its real cool hundreds of cars fill the parking lot and people just kinda walk around chatting about cars. Theres usually no one (that ive seen anyway) ever drinking or getting rowdy.(although it has been over a year since ive been)

So apparently the police arrested EVERYONE 350 people! And towed every car that was in the K Mart parking lot, for get this "Attempted Tresspassing". I heard one girl saying how they didnt tow her car right and they ruined her transmission. And another guy saying how they totally fucked up his truck when they towed it as well.

WTF is attempted tresspassing? Either you tresspassed or you didnt.

Anyway i wasnt able to change my court date today, but i thought this was interesting, i caught a spot about it on the news today as well.

Thoughts?
(/quote)
here's the link if you want to read the rest of the thread:
http://forums.clubsi.com/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=UBB34&Number=1093873&page=3&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=0&fpart=

(warning) the maturity level for this message board is rather subpar (/warning)
posted by imaswinger at 12:27 PM on August 19, 2002


So what's the maximum number of teenagers that we should let congregate in any one spot before our principal-senses should start tingling?
posted by furiousthought at 12:36 PM on August 19, 2002


Witty: They make mistakes, they use poor judgement, they lose control. Sounds a little like me once in a while.
The difference being that when you use poor judgment, you don't jail/beat/kill people. (I hope.)

Totee: Were you ever a teenager?
posted by languagehat at 12:43 PM on August 19, 2002


"The difference being that when you use poor judgment, you don't jail/beat/kill people. (I hope.)"

If these were aspects of my 9-5er (or in some cops' cases, 7pm - 7am-er), I just might, unfortunately.

An abuse of my power would be deleting an entire porn site... all willy-nilly. (I work for an ISP.. not porn specifically) {grin}
posted by Witty at 12:56 PM on August 19, 2002


Witty: You are living proof that no matter how bizarre, stupid or outrageous the topic, someone on Metafilter will agree with it.
posted by salmacis at 1:37 PM on August 19, 2002


Witty - 425 PEOPLE. Not teenagers.
posted by agregoli at 1:54 PM on August 19, 2002


425 people sounds like... *too many*. Meaning I doubt they all were law-abiding non-trespassers (it could happen, but it does not seem to be what was going on in this case from what I've read - admittedly only part of the evidence).

Suggestion for the cops: send a plainclothes officer to film the raid area before the uniformed officers arrive to make arrests. Thay way they will have at least some evidence to show the judge what the true environment of the parking lot was like. As it is, every individual can claim they had a right to be there, and the cops have no evidence other than their word (which seems thuggish considering how the arrests were carried out).

Sometimes crowds form and are obnoxious and unlawful (trespassing, disturbing the peace, etc), and they need to be dispersed. Sometimes arrests are even called for. In such cases, cops need to use some freekin judgment and at least attempt to discern lawful customers from obnoxious trespassers. It's not rocket science (and video cameras would help a *lot*).

Something to ponder: doesn't Kmart have a private security person who can patrol the lot and break up such crowds before they reach into the hundreds? And if so, why the heck not? Aren't they making enough money staying open to justify such an expense?

Of course, this is all a reaction to the symptom, not the cause - teens have nowhere better to go, or lack the judgment to choose somewhere better to go. These are not problems the cops (or Kmart) can fix. The solution lies with the parents and the kids themselves.
posted by beth at 2:03 PM on August 19, 2002


And to clarify: I don't think anyone expects cops to be 100% perfect in always and only arresting exactly those persons who should be arrested - part of what the courts do is sort out things after the fact, when there's more time to weigh the evidence. No cop is perfect, even the most well-meaning one.

That said, completely indiscriminate roundups are just plain idiotic. Police have power, and that carries a responsibility not to overstep their bounds. That means they should have at least a clue about how to determine who's law-abiding and who's not, and if they can't do that (or refuse to even try) they most certainly should NOT be carrying a badge and a gun.
posted by beth at 2:05 PM on August 19, 2002


I think it's wrong to automatically assume the police are wrong in this instance. It's 12:30 AM. There's 400-something people in the parking lot. Do the math. Houston has a curfew law. Therefore, all of those kids, including the "Straight A students" and the "Ten year old girl" were in definite violation of a law that's on the books. You could also charge these people with trespassing, loitering, disturbing the peace... I'd say that 400-something people in a parking lot at 12:30 AM is a definite BAD THING.
posted by Veritron at 2:46 PM on August 19, 2002


The point is, we don't know how many people actually WERE in the parking lot, since some of them were "rounded up" from inside the store, at the nearby restaurant, etc. Therefore, we have no idea if it seemed there was a CROWD of ruffians. Too many people, indeed. Too many people who were acting non-violently to be arrested.
posted by agregoli at 3:01 PM on August 19, 2002


salmacis: Lord... how many times do I have to say that I don't agree with what the cops did. I think they over reacted. But I do agree with the ASSUMPTION (since the article fails to present the other side of the story) that there was a good reason for the cops to be there in the first place.

I can't sit here and get all bent out of shape with you because some people were wrongly arrested. Hopefully the courts will work it all out. This isn't the Rodney King beating fer cryin' out loud.

Would you feel better if everyone agreed with you? Should everyone on MetaFilter agree? I don't find this situation as alarming as you do. You are living proof that no matter how bizarre, stupid or outrageous the topic, someone on Metafilter will totally freak out and have a fit over the fact that someone else sees things differently.

agregoli: People schmeople. Ok, we'll call them youths as the article does. No doubt some of the people were older than the youths. So let's say 300 were teenager-ish. Better?
posted by Witty at 3:30 PM on August 19, 2002


425 teenagers weren't gathering to "make the world a better place".

Oh, that's required by law now? Aw, crap.
posted by Dirjy at 3:41 PM on August 19, 2002


I live in Houston and I have been by this informal "car show" a few times. These kids gather every Saturday night from around 9PM and stay until around 2AM on Sunday. The cops break up the crowd at least two times each night. The kids get in their cars and race down the street to the James Coney Island, or just cruise around for a few minutes and return to the K-Mart once the police have left. This has been going on for almost two years. I have witnessed these kids and I believe they were quite out of control. Street racing, loud music, reckless driving, and violating curfew...

I'm not defending HPD's actions this weekend, but I've been hoping that the police would find a way to get through to these kids. They actually sponsored an indoor car show to help get these kids off the streets and out of these parking lots... I can't seem to dig up any information about it though. That seems like more of a solution that blindly arresting everyone they could find.
posted by valleyfrog at 3:51 PM on August 19, 2002


Veritron: Houston has a curfew law. Therefore, all of those kids, including the "Straight A students" and the "Ten year old girl" were in definite violation of a law that's on the books.

The curfew law is only for minors. Many of those arrested in this dragnet were over the age of 18. And the 10 year old was, by all reports, with her father, but became separated from him in the melee. Curfew laws do not apply to minors who are with their parent or guardian. But even if everyone who was arrested was in violation of the curfew law, then they should have been taken into detention in accordance to the curfew statute, not arrested for another crime that at least some of them were clearly not committing.

Witty: So let's say 300 were teenager-ish. Better?

No, because their age is irrelevant. Whether they were teenagers or octagenarians, the police were out of line in arresting those who were actually patrons of the KMart and Sonic. If there were 425 people and 400 were teenagers, it doesn't change the fact that when you are in the process of patronizing a business, you are not loitering, you are committing no crime. Police have no business arresting people for loitering or trespassing or attempted trespass (the most ludicrous concept I have ever heard when the incident in question happened in a public place) when they can clearly and explicitly show that they are in that place for a legitimate and legal purpose.
posted by Dreama at 4:00 PM on August 19, 2002


the most ludicrous concept I have ever heard when the incident in question happened in a public place

It happened in the Kmart parking lot, I thought -- which is not a public place any more than the inside of the store is.
posted by kindall at 4:23 PM on August 19, 2002


a3matrix: WTF are you talking about? I usualy go to walmart around that time or even later. Shopping in the day, especialy as the collage semester is starting up and people are moving into the dorms is a pain.

If a store is open 24 hours, you should be able to go there whenever you want.
posted by delmoi at 4:30 PM on August 19, 2002


Kindall: It happened in the Kmart parking lot, I thought -- which is not a public place any more than the inside of the store is.

By public, I meant as opposed to a private home or other location open only to specific people for very limited purposes. Anybody may park their car in a KMart parking lot and enter the store during business hours. KMart reserves the right to refuse to serve people for various reasons so long as those reasons are legal, but in the main, no one would be stopped from going there. In contrast, only a limited number of (and generally, invited) people can park in my driveway and enter my home, or enter the guarded parking lot at my office, park there and enter that building.
posted by Dreama at 4:41 PM on August 19, 2002


Curious, what is the curfew for minors in Houston?
posted by black francis at 4:43 PM on August 19, 2002


John Smallberries said: When you have heard only one side of the story, isn't it a bit premature to reach a decision? This event sounds truly ugly and scary - but before I would be ready to condemn the officers involved for being fascist bullies, I would at least like to hear their version of events.

I'd like to know what set of circumstances would make it legal and necessary to arrest 400+ people, many of whom were at the Kmart to make purchases, many of whom weren't even on the Kmart premises at all.
posted by RylandDotNet at 4:56 PM on August 19, 2002


black francis, the law itself is here, and an informational summary put together by the city can be found here.

Basically, kids from 10 to 17 (inclusive) can't be in public places from midnight to 6 AM on any night of the week (with exceptions), nor can they be in public places from 9 AM to 2:30 PM on school days (with exceptions).
posted by delfuego at 5:06 PM on August 19, 2002


Kindall, the law preempts you -- it defines public place as "any place to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access and includes, but is not limited to, streets, highways, and the common areas of schools, hospitals, apartments, houses, office buildings, transport facilities, and shops." Importantly, note the "common areas of... shops" -- that's the kicker.
posted by delfuego at 5:08 PM on August 19, 2002


Curious / blackfrancis:

In regards to the question of curfew, who cares? The police certainly didn't. Curfew was irrelevant, as (at least according to the news we know) no one was arrested for violating it. Why not just ask what the fine for littering is as well?

The issue is that over 400 people were arrested for trespassing- an act in which the only way hundreds of people could do it at one time would be at an unauthorized rally. And maybe the first Woodstock.

In light of what Dreama and kindall were arguing about: as most parking lots mention they are for "so and so customers only," it would merit the idea that actual presence in the lot is for customers only as well. The issue, as has been widely addressed already, is that apparently most of the people arrested were in fact said "customers only."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:13 PM on August 19, 2002


Not to say that if, in fact, breaking curfew actually classifies as trespassing in some way, it's valid, as the latter part of my previous post implies. Arresting 400 people for something they obviously didn't do is ridiculous, be it littering, breaking curfew, trespassing, whatever.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:18 PM on August 19, 2002


This whole situation reminded me of a negative review of Bogosian's SubUrbia. The Canadian reviewer felt the premise of twenty year-olds spending their nights hanging outside a convenience store "awkward and phony". Surely people that age might hang out there once or twice in their lives but not regularly. Apparently the idea that hundreds of young people gather regularly outside of a Kmart would also sound absurd to anyone that's never lived in the U.S.

It seems sad to me, that on one hand there is a feeling that the sense of community is disappearing, that we are growing more isolated from one another, but when young people start to gather spontaneously outside of any strict commercial institution (concerts, sports, fairs) it is seen as dangerous and subversive.

It may be that we are getting only one side of the story, that there may have been a potentially dangerous situation that the police were obligated to stop, but if indeed these gatherings occur regularly on a private parking lot where there is harassment by the police leads me to believe (please correct me if I'm wrong) that there must be a lack of public space in the area that people can gather or walk around on a warm summer night.
posted by bobo123 at 6:25 PM on August 19, 2002


delfuego: Thanx for the link.

XQUZYPHYR: In regards to your high dive down my throat, I was, as I said, only curious.
posted by black francis at 6:43 PM on August 19, 2002


Face it- there are plenty of dumb cops, who get a charge from hassling defenseless people, especially kids.

If they wanted to break the affair up, they could have told them to go home, not arrest everyone in sight.

What dumb$hits.
posted by drstrangelove at 7:24 PM on August 19, 2002


There are good cops, bad cops, and then there are Texas cops.

The "public intoxication" scenario Pressed Rat described is a common thing out there. They sometimes round up whole bars full of people, just to get money from the fines. Not a big deal for most people; but if you plan on some day joining the ATF, that bogus arrest could wreck your plans.

I love how the kids describe the experience as being so traumatic. It brings home how bad getting arrested really is to the layperson. For a criminal, it's no big deal. Cops seem to forget that somewhere along the way.
posted by son_of_minya at 7:40 PM on August 19, 2002


I find it weird that this has only been reported in one News source. A lot of googling with various permutations on
teenagers+arrested+bystanders+Houston+KMart+parking+lot turns up virtually nothing , or exactly nothing relevant.
Why was a dad arrested, his daughter separated from him traumatised, parents made anxious... taxpayers could be protesting the cost of this operation, victims of real crime could protest about lesser protection. What a PR disaster!

Why aren't more Texan papers up in arms?
posted by dash_slot- at 7:53 PM on August 19, 2002


dash_slot: the story ran today. The incident happened Saturday night / Sunday morning. Google isn't psychic.
posted by RylandDotNet at 8:29 PM on August 19, 2002


No, I think Dash's point was that the story should have been picked up by the Austin Statesman and the Dallas Morning News and maybe the Star Telegram, just to name a few of the really big syndication papers. I thought it was odd that it didn't get coverage in any of the other papers also...simply because the story should have gone out across the wires as soon as it was filed by the original reporters.

That being said, I can almost guarantee that the southern wind everyone is feeling is every civil rights lawyer in the country beating feet down to find themselves a wrongly arrested teen. If the story about the 10 year old being sent to juvie is true...omg is that a huge freaking suit...huge...I *so* wouldn't want to be a Houston taxpayer when these suits start coming through...cause this is gonna cost and cost big.

Every town where I've ever lived, including small towns and big ol cities, have all had an area where the street racers and that crowd cruise and hang. Sure, they can be a little intimidating, but they're mostly harmless...and dear lord, the kids need something to do!

These kids aren't bad...they're bored. Curfews won't fix that. Arresting them won't fix that. Giving them some place (legal) to hang with their cars and their stereos and their friends will fix it. These kids don't need or want "children's clubs"...what they want is someplace to hang out, show off their mods and their significant others and generally do that tribal comparison thing that teens do.
posted by dejah420 at 9:08 PM on August 19, 2002


I don't think any out-of-town dailies would run a story about a couple hundred youths being arrested and detained for minor offenses. The details available at this point do not make for much of a story ... "Police overreact to cruising problem; arrest hundreds for trespassing."
posted by rcade at 9:36 PM on August 19, 2002


Having been part of several groups as a teenager where the police suddenly showed up with an intent to arrest bunches of people, I have to wonder how many people were in that parking lot when they showed up.

In my experience (admittedly limited) the police only ever got a hefty fraction of those there, as the ability of kids (sorry, people) to scatter is pretty impressive.
posted by obfusciatrist at 9:40 PM on August 19, 2002


How can you be so willing to say any different? Talk about guilty until proven innocent.

Well, because I was trying to take into account my almost complete lack of real knowledge of what actually happened. The article didn't tell us much. I do not believe I was insinuating the guilt of the cops, but I am not so ready to assume their innocence either.

I really have no idea whether the kids were doing anything wrong or not. I have no knowledge whatsoever of the history of this situation. I do not know anyone involved. All I have to work with, is the article as presented. I'm assuming that's the only source of facts you had to work with as well...

While teenagers as a group do not have quite the same reputation that little old churchgoing grandmothers do, cops in general don't have such a sterling record either. The only part of the story that seemed to tip in favor of the teens was that the cops arrested a 10 year old girl who was having a meal with her father. That, I thought, was over the top...

What I was reacting to, more than anything else, was the sense I got from your post (that I quoted previously) that you considered it such a certainty that the police were there for good reasons, and that if they had done anything wrong, it would be taken care of. Quite frankly, I don't feel that comfortable believing that police usually have well intentioned reasons for the things they do, and I have less faith every year that those who abuse their positions of power will be punished for it.

I'm not saying that the police, in this case, were wrong. Similarly, if they were wrong, I'm not saying categorically that they would not be punished for it. I am saying that I don't understand how anyone can be certain of the police meaning well, and that the police would be punished for their indiscretions, if any.

That being said, Witty, you have put up with a lot of crap in this thread for defending your position. I share your belief (if I read you correctly) that the fate of those detailed in the article is not something for us to decide, and that it is best dealt with through the appropriate government channels.

I agree that police are human, just like you and I, and that they have a very tough job to do. I certainly wouldn't want it. Yet, in order to do that job, we invest them with a great deal of power and authority. Often I am very disappointed in the ways I see this power being used. Police are human, indeed, and they share our faults...and what seems a common fault among us is that we frequently abuse what power we are given.

The cries of others in this thread, immediately lashing out at the police involved is quite irritating. It seems many of us are more than willing to pass judgement without all (or even most of) the facts. I'm willing to bet this behavior comes from shared feelings of betrayal, perhaps rooted in many separate instances of the abuse of power granted an authority or authorities. As irritating as the reaction is, it is more acceptable to me to tolerate it than it is to tacitly accept the indiscretions of the powerful by declaring it hysteria.
posted by ruggles at 10:43 PM on August 19, 2002


Oh crap...did I just write that? Jeez...
posted by ruggles at 10:45 PM on August 19, 2002


Oh...and that first line was supposed to be quoting Witty...like this:

How can you be so willing to say any different? Talk about guilty until proven innocent.
posted by ruggles at 10:47 PM on August 19, 2002


Damn freakin' pigs.
The story is obviously skewed in favor of the students and some of the stories are a little suspicious, but hopefully the leash on the police force will be tightened after this one.

In New Zealand, (though I'm sure someone will clarify) laws have recently been passed to stop the "Bogans", the Kiwi petrol heads. Instant fines to anyone watching cars drag racing and doing burn-outs.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 10:53 PM on August 19, 2002


Call me a 34-year old, but as hamfistedly stupid as the mass roundup might have been in this instance, I take totee at his word when he says this gathering was bad news.

This puts me in mind of how I felt about OJ: he was guilty as sin of the murders, but was set free (and properly so) because of the incompetent police work of Mark Furman and the LAPD.

Police will always be necessary to civil society; the challenge is in devising methods and mores of police work that conduce to that civility. I personally respect the hell out of cops who can walk this narrow line, while no one has more venom than I for those cops who betray the public trust.

You know what might have been cool? If HPD had a competent intel desk, they'd have known of this Saturday night lot party since a week after it got started. And instead of rousting it, they would have had an HPD prowl car chopped and turned into a lowrider, and sent their smartest cops out there with it on Saturday evenings to ride gentle herd on the scene.

I've seen enlightened policing like this work to defuse potentially difficult situations time and time again, respectfully and with a little bit of humor. It's a damn shame that Houston wasn't graced with more creative heads on the night in question.
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:57 AM on August 20, 2002


The followup story in today's Chronicle confirms some of the details about the arrests, quoting an officer saying the arrests were "utterly, utterly senseless" and confirming that Sonic diners were included.
posted by rcade at 5:26 AM on August 20, 2002


Witty: Where on earth do you get your confidence that the courts will sort things out? The system is set up to get convictions, so that many people accept a guilty plea in return for a small fine. It's easy to see why they would do this when faced with substantially harsher penalties if they choose to contest the charge. We both know this goes on all the time.
posted by salmacis at 6:27 AM on August 20, 2002


From the follow-up: "(Houston Police Chief C.O.) Bradford was contradicted by an assistant chief, who testified that Bradford had once called him a quite profane name."

O dear. How sad. Never fucking mind.
posted by dash_slot- at 8:25 AM on August 20, 2002


yikes. that's-a scary followup.

"But we got out there, and no one was racing," said one of the supervisors. "So Aguirre just said, `Arrest them all for trespass.'

"It was like, 'Kill them all and let God sort them out,'" said the other supervisor. "I guess we're just lucky he didn't order us to fire warning shots into the crowd or anything."

posted by Sapphireblue at 8:45 AM on August 20, 2002


The HPD news release.

Also,
doesn't Kmart have a private security person who can patrol the lot and break up such crowds before they reach into the hundreds? --beth

from what I recall, the security at that store is a guy driving around in front of it on a golf cart.
posted by fidelity at 11:08 AM on August 20, 2002


"...Chief Bradford has begun an inquiry into several aspects of this operation to determine:
Who was in charge:
What instructions were given to officers involved:
Why an after-action report was not completed in a timely manner:
Why a significant event report was not given to the Office of the Chief of Police:

Why arrests were made instead of issuing citations:..."


Does Chief Braddum sound a little, ahh, pissed-off to you?
posted by dash_slot- at 4:10 PM on August 20, 2002


I have a bit more faith in our legal system than... you? Sometimes good comes out of things that are bad. It doesn't necessarily keep getting worse and more horrible.
posted by Witty at 8:25 AM on August 21, 2002


err... okay then (huh?)
posted by dash_slot- at 8:38 AM on August 21, 2002


That was intended for salmacis.
posted by Witty at 11:45 AM on August 21, 2002


sonic officials say raid at restaurant unwanted
Sonic officials said Thursday that they never complained to police about the regular weekend crowd, had no warning of the raid and ordered employees to protect customers as the operation began.

Dismayed Sonic employees refused to allow police to tow 12 cars that the arrested customers were forced to leave in the lot.

...Sonic has never warned trespassers, filed complaints or signed paperwork to allow police to make arrests under the city trespassing ordinance, Abernathy said. Kmart officials have declined to explain the steps they took before the arrests.
the only question now is how much money would those arrested like to receive.
posted by lescour at 2:17 PM on August 23, 2002


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