Rappers Deny Blame For Event That Killed 9 Attending Benefit Game
NEW YORK (AP) _ Rappers who promoted a celebrity basketball game at City College where nine people were fatally crushed trying to get in denied blame, faulting police lack of crowd control and the school’s inadequate security.
Meanwhile, some trustees of the parent City University say they will consider whether the college president, Bernard Harleston, bears ultimate responsiblity.
″The president is the one who is in charge,″ trustee Herman Badillo, a former congressman, told the New York Post. ″If something is done that is in violation of the rules, the president is responsible. We have to take vigorous action.″
The promoters, Dwight Meyers, who goes by the name Heavy D, and Sean Combs, better known as Puff Daddy, and their lawyers held a news conference Thursday at the Plaza Hotel.
While expressing sorrow, they also denied responsibility for what happened Saturday night when an overflow crowd of more than 5,000 people crammed into an event with 2,730 bleacher seats. In addition to the deaths, 29 people were injured.
Michael Warren, a lawyer for Meyers, said, ″The police officers who were there saw shoving occurring and were told and asked to intercede, please do something about this, and they turned their backs.″
William Kunstler, an attorney for Combs, said his client told some officers that the crowd was getting out of hand and asked them to announce that no one could enter the gym without a ticket. Combs’ request was ignored, he said.
Kunstler admitted Combs failed to insure the event though he agreed to provide it in his rental contract for the gym.
Deputy Mayor Milton Mollen, who is investigating the incident for the city, said Thursday the police officer in charge was outside and didn’t know the extent of the problem inside. The officer also believed his responsibility called for him to enter the building only after emergency crews arrived.
Police arrived at the gym more than two hours before the event was to start. They found hundreds of people outside. The crowd was unruly. The police presence was stepped up until there were 66 officers outside the building.
The deaths and injuries occurred at the bottom of a flight of stairs connecting the lobby to the gym.
New York Newsday reported today that a ticket-seller at the event said she saw three armed men in blue uniforms in the lobby before the fatal shoving began, and thought they were police.
The ticket-seller, a Combs employee, declined to be identified, Newsday said.
When the crowd turned menacing, pressing against the lobby’s Plexiglas doors and walls, the woman and five companions fled to safey with the cash box,
Daniel Cunningham, Pinkerton senior vice president, said Thursday that the private agency’s uniform - a blue parka, jacket, trousers and black shoes - could be mistaken for city police garb. Pinkerton guards, who patrol the campus, are unarmed, he said.
Cunningham also told Newsday that the Pinkerton guards were ordered to stay in the gym and not to patrol in the lobby or stairwell.
Kunstler said a contract signed Dec. 19 by Combs and the concert’s co- sponsor, the college Evening Student Government, gave the school charge of security at the event.
Combs, on his own, hired private guards to help out, his lawyer said.
Kunstler told The New York Times that of $10,000 budgeted for the benefit, $2,850 was spent on promotion and $1,850 for security.
Combs and Meyers planned to donate 25 percent of event proceeds to AIDS education, Kunstler said. He noted that $24,581 raised is now in city hands.