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Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Police: Pacers' backup center threw punch, too

Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Police have determined that a fourth member of the Pacers, reserve center David Harrison, was involved in the brawl at last Friday night's Indiana-Detroit game.

Police Lt. James Manning said footage of the fight shows it was Harrison who punched John Ackerman, 67, in the stands. Ackerman claimed in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that it was Jermaine O'Neal who hit him.

ESPN provided the NBA with footage from the broadcast, and the league issued a statement saying it decided not to suspend Harrison because of the circumstances in the exit area at the time the players were attempting to leave the floor. Harrison, however, was shown in video footage throwing a punch in the stands as he and other players headed toward the locker room.

Todd Weglarz, one of the attorneys representing Ackerman, said he had not seen the videotape purportedly showing Harrison attacking his client, but was considering filing a subpoena to obtain a copy. He said there were no plans to drop O'Neal as a defendant.

O'Neal has been suspended for 25 games for his role in the brawl, Stephen Jackson for 30, and Ron Artest, who was the first to bound into the stands and begin punching fans, for the rest of the season. Police have not been able to talk to any of the Pacers, Manning said.

The fight among spectators and players broke out near the end of Friday's game after an on-court dispute over a foul. A fan hurled a drink at Artest, who then charged into the stands and began beating a man he thought had done it.

The man attacked by Artest, Mike Ryan, of Clarkston, has retained a lawyer, but has not decided yet whether to sue. Other people hurt in the fight have filed suits against the Pacers, individual players and The Palace.

"Artest attacked him and wrongfully so," Ryan's lawyer, Todd Flood, said Wednesday. "My client was truly an innocent victim."

Manning said Crimestoppers has offered a reward of up to $1,000 for information on the fight and the man who threw a chair that struck several people. The Pistons also have offered $1,000 reward, team spokesman Matt Dobek said.

Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca has said players and fans could be charged with misdemeanor assault and battery. The only possible felony charge currently under consideration would be against the chair-thrower.

The investigation could take two to three weeks. Investigators planned to continue reviewing videotapes and interviewing witnesses before issuing charges.