Police and firefighters in Alton, Illinois were attacked three seperate times by a mob at the Oakwood Housing Complex with a barrage of bottle rockets and fireworks on the 4th of July.
The firefighters were called out three seperate times and were ambushed by the mob each time.
The confrontations began at 10:20 p.m. and within the 40 minutes it took to resolve the first incident, police were attacked three times. It started when a firetruck was dispatched to extinguish a Dumpster fire in the 700 block of Oakwood and was immediately attacked by the crowd shooting and throwing fireworks at them.
According to two police reports, Patrolman First Class Walter Wetzstein and several other officers already were on their way to the scene because of the “large amounts of fireworks being set off at that location.” Both reports stated that in the past, fires have been set to “lure the fire department out so they could be attacked by fireworks.”
When officers arrived, they too were attacked “by the mob” with bottle rockets thrown from behind buildings. Police responded with pepper-ball guns and at one point pursued attackers in an attempt to restore order. Officers left when firefighters were able to extinguish the Dumpster fire but quickly returned to the housing complex because of reports of people shot or injured in the 800 block of Oakwood. Police did not find anyone injured but again were attacked by fireworks and again deployed pepper-ball guns to prevent attacks.
Officers were attacked a third time in the 700 block of Oakwood when they responded to reports of a truck fire; that turned out to be a box on fire. Officers had to leave when their pepper-ball guns were out of ammunition.
At 12:29 a.m. July 5, police and fire personnel again were dispatched to the Oakwood Housing complex for a Dumpster fire in the 800 block of Oakwood. Officers were attacked with bottle rockets and again deployed pepper-ball guns. When the fire department put out the fire, police requested the Dumpster in the 900 block be soaked down in an attempt to prevent it from being set on fire. Officers left at that time to respond to other calls.
“The Fourth of July is always a very busy time for us because of fireworks. It’s unfortunate that resources were tied up for a couple of hours like this” when the rest of the city might have needed them, Hayes said.
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