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Chaotic Scene Follows KaBoom Fireworks

Police attempt to maintain control as thousands pour into the street following the annual fireworks show.

As tens of thousands emptied out onto Red Bank streets following Sunday’s KaBoom fireworks show it became clear why the borough beefed up its police presence for this year’s event and, still, just how fast a situation can turn ugly with only the slightest provocation.

On Front Street immediately following the fireworks show, a large crowd circled a running automobile sitting sideways in the middle of the street. In the car an unidentified man sat behind the wheel, looking confused, as hordes of people began to pound on the hood and roof of his late model BMW, one even tearing the gas cover off of the side of the car.

Why he attempted to drive through a crowd of thousands on a blocked-off Front Street remains to be seen – no police report has been released yet, despite requests made more than 24 hours following the incident – but as he laid on the horn and as more and more people started shouting and crowding the car, police opened his door, pulled him out of his car, and tackled him to the ground.

As two officers struggled to put the bewildered man – driving a car with handicap tags – in handcuffs, the crowd began to yell and pound more feverishly on the car, joining each other in a moronic chant of “U.S.A, U.S.A,” before someone in the crowd smashed the car’s back windshield, scattering some and eliciting shoves between some others.

A testament to the concerted efforts of the borough and its police department, efforts that have been in the works for months, the situation, just short of running out of control, was seemingly resolved in mere minutes. Shortly after the incident began, nearly a dozen police officers from Red Bank and adjacent towns arrived on foot to calm the situation. Just a minute later, several more officers arrived on motorcycles and on bikes.

Following complaints of numerous incidents of fighting and underage drinking at last year’s KaBoom! Fireworks on the Navesink, and facing calls from some to disband a more than 50-year-old tradition that may have grown too large for Red Bank, organizers of the event promised a return to community and family-oriented entertainment.

Among the steps taken by KaBoom and the borough was enacting stiffer penalties for troublemakers and bringing in more police. Borough council passed a resolution calling for maximum fines for violators and promised zero-tolerance against, as Mayor Pat Menna put it, “anti-social behavior.”

To bolster its ranks, the Red Bank Police Department contracted with officers from nearby departments, including Middletown, Matawan, and Brick, among others. Capt. Darren McConnell promised cops on every corner, and, true to his word, police could be seen from most every standing position throughout the borough’s downtown.

With a national holiday – Fourth of July, of course – following KaBoomFest, Red Bank’s police department has not yet released information about the number of arrests it made Sunday night. According to some unofficial reports, while there were large numbers of rowdy teens and intoxicated young people meandering around post-fireworks, criminal incidents were low.

susie picciotti July 05, 2011 at 01:22 PM
Where was the cop that was suppose to be keeping traffic off the street...
Elsie McFly July 05, 2011 at 01:38 PM
The power of Beer. If alcohol reduces the group mentality there should be a law enforcement surcharge for all carry out liquor. And how about a surcharge for the littering of liquor containers all over the county. If a company sells a product that reduces a mans brain power and encourages stupid behaviour they should share in the consequences. If a bar sells too much liquor to a patron and they have an accident they get sued. Why not establish a social tax on all liquor.
Richard A. Feller July 05, 2011 at 05:25 PM
What could have been a very bloody incident is narrowly escaped. The railroad crossing gates failed and did not go down as a train approached narrowly missing cars and scores of people on the tracks. Some fast action by the police diverted a calamity with some very quick traffic control. After their fear left them frozen for an instance, they then sprang into action. This was the closest tragic disaster I ever saw in my 52 years of life. God was certainly merciful in this situation for all in concern.
Sharon July 05, 2011 at 08:36 PM
I'm not sure how cops tackling a driver to the ground is a testament to them, while the clearly "anti-social" behavior of rocking, banging, and smashing a car is allowed to go on....
B July 05, 2011 at 11:04 PM
MOB MENTALity at its best. This is the number one reason I avoid RB like the plague on the 3rd of July/Ka-Boom fest. All kinds of flotsam & jet-sum pours into the town and all hell happens. I thought the focus was to be more family oriented this year? What happened? I guess the armored cars brought in by the county wasn't enough of a message.
Kevin Donohue July 05, 2011 at 11:52 PM
Sharon, It's a testament that they were tacklers and he was the tacklee (I just made up a new word!). Viktoria, I saw the assault vehicle in the 7 11 parking lot. I'm assuming it was there in the unlikely event of a terrorist attack. I wouldn't expect it to be able to stop one drunken fool from punching another drunken fool.
Cindy Louise Allen July 06, 2011 at 12:11 AM
A friend saw this incident and said the driver was also drunk. We went to three different fireworks displays this year, including Red Bank's. (Which we rarely have missed over the past twenty something years, including when we had small children, and never had a problem.) And imagine, we saw drunken people in every town we went to, can you believe that people get drunk on the 4th of July weekend in other places besides Red Bank???
Bianca Olivadoti July 06, 2011 at 03:18 AM
I also saw this whole incident go down. And like others, i suspected the driver was drunk. He nearly drove into a row of parked cars, not to mention quite a few pedestrians. The whole scene just added to my disgust with the event as a a whole. There are not enough handcuffs in the state of New Jersey that would allow police to enforce any kind of an underage drinking or public drunkenness policy.
Elsie McFly July 06, 2011 at 04:04 PM
Red Bank is still a great place. The rowdiness of the crowd is a sign of the times and not an indictment on RB. The fireworks were excellent and the vast majority of visitors got what they came for. Breaking the guys window is just low class.
harry johnson September 12, 2011 at 12:23 AM
The driver of the BMW did what ever he wanted and almost killed several people he was not only asked to stop by police They just about begged him to stop. Yet he just ignored them. Now he cries disabilityHis only disability in my opinion was that he was stoned out of his mind

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