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April 27, 2006 - Times Herald-Record (NY)

Angry Cadets Riot Following Drug Search

By Greg Bruno and Andrew Perlot

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

West Point - Cadets angry over a drug search rioted for more than an hour last week, throwing fireworks and garbage from their barracks in an uproar one officer described as "shameful."

"Hundreds of cadets were hollering obscenities out of their windows and some were throwing objects," in what the unidentified officer termed a riot in an incident summary obtained by the Times Herald-Record.

"A team-size element of firemen responded to the scene as cadets were throwing objects that were on fire out of the windows in Bradley Barracks," the summary continued. "It was a shameful, pitiful day for" the U.S. Military Academy.

Lt. Col. Kent P. Cassella, a West Point spokesman, confirmed the events but downplayed their significance.

He said no one was injured and nothing was damaged during the disturbance on April 19. He said no one was disciplined as a result of the incident.

One cadet apparently was hit with a flying peanut butter jar around 11 p.m., the incident log said, but wasn't hurt.

"It sounded like the cadets were blowing off a little steam," Cassella said. "Basically, there were some cadets voicing their frustrations, and there were some firecrackers going off. But in the end, there was nothing more than that."

The frustration apparently stemmed from an unannounced drug and weapons search of cadets' quarters earlier in the day. Around 6 a.m., cadets awoke to a fire drill in the barracks complex. They left the barracks, as ordered.

Then, while cadets were still outside, teams of drug-sniffing canine units entered the dormitories. The academy's 4,000 students waited while military and local police combed through their rooms.

While it's common in the military for commanding officers to toss the rooms of subordinates, Cassella said some cadets felt like they were tricked by the timing. He said leadership made a mistake by scheduling the fire drill and the search so close together.

An Orange County sheriff's deputy who participated in the search said no narcotics were found.

Most cadets who witnessed the subsequent riot, which started around 10:30 p.m. and ended an hour later, said the disturbance was no big deal. The chaos subsided after cadets and officers began cleaning up the barracks' courtyard.

"It comes down to people being immature," said one freshman, who asked that his name not be used. "The majority of cadets were apathetic."

But the incident report suggested otherwise.

"About 2,000 cadets were involved and witness to this travesty," it read.

"Officers on duty "could not believe what they were witnessing!"

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