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 of 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.'”
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.
He added, “We of course need to work on race relations. If anyone says we don’t, they are playing games with themselves.”
A police report says Schuett [Sgt. Richard 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.
* 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.