Des Moines police are trying to determine what led to a series of attacks outside the Iowa State Fairgrounds over the weekend that included the assault on two police officers.
At least three people were arrested Friday through early Monday morning. Other arrests may occur as officers investigate the incidents, officials said.
There are indications that some of the fights—which appear to involve mostly teenagers and young adults—were racially motivated, police said.
“We don’t know if this was juveniles fighting or a group of kids singling out white citizens leaving the fairgrounds,” Sgt. Lori Lavorato said. “It’s all under investigation, but it’s very possible it has racial overtones.”
Officials announced last week that they were stepping up security outside the fairgrounds after a series of attacks Aug. 14 that included a pair of stabbings. Investigators are still investigating those assaults and victims intend to pursue charges.
Sgt. David Murillo stated in a report on Friday night, “On-duty officers at the fairgrounds advise there was a group of 30 to 40 individuals roaming the fairgrounds openly calling it ‘beat whitey night.’ “
Jammie Carroll, 36, of Polk City, was seriously injured in the 3000 block of East Grand Avenue Friday night after a group of people beat him up, causing severe injuries to his eyes, cheekbones and nose, Murillo wrote. Carroll is white, and many of the suspects are black, police said.
State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, who has worked to fight gang-related violence, said he doesn’t have enough information to decide if the fights were racially motivated. He said police comments that race was involved could miss other factors, such as nonracial taunting.
“Unfortunately, like any other city, you have certain parts of town that individuals congregate in,” Abdul-Samad said. “You have those that go into that area with no problem, and those who cannot.”
He added, “We of course need to work on race relations. If anyone says we don’t, they are playing games with themselves.”
State Fair spokeswoman Lori Chappell said she had few details about the incidents. Police had increased security near the western edge of the fairgrounds specifically, she said.
The fair, which drew more than 960,000 visitors over 11 days, ended when the gates closed at 1 a.m. Monday.
About 10:30 p.m. Sunday, two police officers were attacked as they waded into a combative crowd outside the fairgrounds’ main gates at East 30th Street and Grand Avenue.
Sgt. Richard Schuett and reserve Officer Lynn Hubbs both complained of head, neck and back pain after being punched from behind while trying to make arrests.
“There were pockets of people fighting,” Schuett said. “People were leaving the fair and they were walking into the middle of them. We were trying to move people along but some of them wouldn’t move.”
A police report says Schuett “was on the ground fighting with his suspect, and several other females began to attack him.” Another officer grabbed one of the attackers and tried to make an arrest, but she spun away.
Officers sprayed chemical deterrent and deployed a stun gun while trying to gain control. Two teenage girls were taken into custody for questioning following that incident.
Also Sunday night and early Monday:
- Beth Longen, 25, of Des Moines was at the gas pumps at the QuikTrip store, East 30th Street and University Avenue, taking video of the crowd when she was assaulted about 11:20 p.m., police said. A 17-year-old girl allegedly slapped Longen and threatened her in front of police officers. The teen was one of several taken to police headquarters and later released to parents.
- Earl Tice, 17, of Des Moines was attacked near East 30th Street and Grand Avenue about 9:45 p.m. Sunday. He told officers he was jumped while leaving the fair. Tice was having X-rays taken at a hospital when police took a report from his mother. Officials said he had been kicked and punched.
- Officers arrested Daveion Trell Smith, 18, of Des Moines on a charge of disorderly conduct. Police said they observed him with a large group of people, yelling and gesturing and trying to start a fight with another group of people. He was warned and told to leave the area, police said.
- Kiera Agee, 18, of Des Moines was charged with disorderly conduct. Police said they told her several times to leave the area. She allegedly responded by swearing at police. She was arrested and was taken to jail.
- Ashley Robinson, 18, of Des Moines was charged with interference with official acts. Police said they were doing paperwork in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant near the fairgrounds when Robinson walked up demanding answers to questions. Police were holding several suspects there at the time. She was ordered to leave the area. When she refused, she was taken into custody.
Laurie Christensen, a resident of Walker Street near the fairgrounds, said she’s never seen such hostility around the fairgrounds.
Groups “have been openly taunting the police—in the street right to their faces,” she said. “We found some of them that ran from the police hiding in our backyard.”