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Ill. police, firefighters hit with fireworks

Associated Press / July 7, 2010

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ALTON, Ill. — An unruly mob lured emergency personnel to a housing complex near St. Louis with reports of a blaze, a shooting, and other crimes, then attacked them with fireworks and bottle rockets, authorities said.

No one was injured in the onslaughts against firefighters and police in Alton on Sunday night and early Monday.

The attackers apparently intended the assaults as entertainment for a hundreds-strong crowd of adults and children who had gathered at the Oakwood Housing Complex to watch, said Mark Harris, a deputy fire chief who witnessed the attacks.

“Our firefighters got in there and started doing their thing, and out come the fireworks’’ including bottle rockets and Roman candles, Harris said. “It does appear we were lured in for that purpose.’’

There was no immediate word on any arrests or charges in the attacks.

Police Chief David Hayes told The Telegraph of Alton that the firefighters were first attacked when they responded to reports of a trash receptacle fire about 10:20 p.m. Sunday.

Separately, police officers were showered with bottle rockets fired from behind buildings at the same housing complex when they investigated a call falsely claiming someone had been shot and reports of fireworks being set off.

Firecrackers, bottle rockets, and other fireworks are outlawed in Illinois.

Police officers and firefighters were attacked again when they returned to the neighborhood to douse a blazing box early Monday.

Hayes said officers tried to control the assailants by using guns firing pepper balls. He said the assaults turned his stomach.

“I’m so angry,’’ Hayes told the newspaper. “This type of conduct is not supposed to happen in civil society.’’

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