March 19, 2011
An armed intruder stormed onto the Staples Center court just over an hour before Saturday's matinee matchup between the Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers. Though authorities don't know what the man's intentions or motivations were, he was brandishing a knife, and was eventually brought down after a hail of rubber bullet fire from security guards and police officers after a 20-minute standoff and led into custody. No fans, authorities, or members of either organization were hurt or seriously threatened.
Police say the man did not have a ticket to the game, but rather used the threat of his knife to make his way through the employee entrance and into the stadium. The intruder ran onto the court, where Cleveland Cavaliers rookie forward Christian Eyenga(notes) was out practicing shooting drills before the road contest. The Congolese native quickly ran back into the locker room, which pleased bemused Cavs coach Byron Scott.
"Smart man,'' Scott said of the young player who is still learning to speak English. "He understands knife, I guess. I think that goes all the way to Congo. Knife means get the hell out. So he did the right thing.''
After the standoff resulted in the subduing of the possible assailant with the rubber and bean bag bullets, senior vice president and general manager of the Staples Center and Nokia Theater L.A. Live Lee Zeidman briefed the media on what little he knew about the arena's unwelcome guest:
"He was talking a lot of gibberish, making a lot of threats and nobody could understand him,'' Zeidman said. "There was a lot of vulgarity, a lot of statements that didn't make any sense. We, quite frankly, don't understand why he tried to do this. There were no specific demands.''
Though both teams were in a joking mood following the incident (as the game continued nearly apace, with the tip-off time moved back 15 minutes, the Clippers won by a 100 to 92 score), it does bear repeating that either an unstable or quite purposeful harmful element could do a terrible thing at one of these games eventually.
Though media has to submit to screenings and inspections as they enter stadiums, the other workers' gate (where all manner of stage get-ups, catering set-ups, and workers from all ends of the labor spectrum pack into a guarded but clearly vulnerable entrance) still offers the potential for the wrong element to get into the wrong place. And without being completely obtrusive, or ramping up costs across the board (from tickets to surcharge to the price of that hot pretzel), there really isn't much that can be done besides relying on the protection of the men and women who did their job in securing the Staples Center on Saturday.
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