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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE : Solving a Postgame Puzzle

September 15, 1993

The police in Anaheim and Newport Beach owe the public a fuller explanation of how part of the Anaheim Stadium parking lot turned into a Wild West show after the football game Sunday.

There are different accounts of the events, but everyone seems to agree that a fight broke out in the lot. A Newport Beach police spokesman said a group of off-duty policemen from his department who had attended the game tried to break up the disturbance. Soon afterward, several men from one of the quarreling groups challenged the officers to fight.

One policeman was punched, another was clipped by a car and a third chased its driver onto the freeway, according to police.

One key question: When did the officers, who were in civilian clothes, identify themselves as policemen? One witness said they didn't identify themselves for a time and all that stunned bystanders saw were men waving guns in the air. Another key question: Were any of the fighters or the two men who were arrested or the policemen drinking?

Then there's the question of the officer who chased the car after his colleague was struck. Police acknowledge that he fired at the vehicle on the freeway. After the pursued car pulled over, the driver was arrested as he tried to run away.

A California Highway Patrol spokeswoman, although not commenting on Sunday's incident, said CHP officers do not shoot on the freeways "because it could endanger the lives of other motorists." That policy is a good one, and it has worked well for the police agencies that follow it.

Anaheim police say their preliminary review of the incident found no criminal wrongdoing by any of the officers; wisely, that department is continuing its investigation.

Newport Beach police said they are conducting an administrative review of their officers' actions, especially those of the unidentified officer who fired on the freeway. The district attorney's office also will review the events.

The public safety issues raised by this incident suggest the need for a detailed accounting.

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