Ike evacuees complain of violence at shelter - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Ike evacuees complain of violence at shelter

Residents wait outside the Tyler Walmart shelter after a fight during Hurricane Ike (KLTV). Residents wait outside the Tyler Walmart shelter after a fight during Hurricane Ike (KLTV).

As Hurricane Ike blew through Texas last month -- a different kind of storm was brewing inside a former Wal-Mart in Tyler.

The site was hastily converted into a shelter for evacuees.

The Associated Press reports the building, which had been vacant for two years, quickly became a cauldron of tension.

About 1,600 people were crammed into a structure with a leaky roof, few indoor bathrooms and almost no privacy.

Fights soon broke out, and one ended after Tyler police allegedly used pepper spray on dozens of evacuees and a Taser on a 15-year-old boy.

Accounts of what happened in the building were drawn from interviews and public records obtained by AP.

Tyler officials stand by their actions, saying they acted properly.

A spokeswoman for Governor Rick Perry says the state provides buses, police and military support, but shelter decisions are made by local officials.

Here's more:

Days before Ike hit the Gulf Coast on September 13th, more than 3,000 Beaumont residents were taken by bus to Tyler.

Tyler had told the state it could accommodate only about half that number.

At one point a fight between two women in a smoking area attracted numerous onlookers.

Tyler police responded. Four people, including two juveniles, were arrested on charges that included disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer.

Tyler Police Chief Gary Swindle says people refused to move out of the way and wouldn't stop fighting. Swindle says the Taser was used after a couple of people threatened an officer with a chair.

But some evacuees tell a different story, saying police were overly aggressive and used racial slurs.

Tyler City Manager Bob Turner confirmed that some bystanders were inadvertently sprayed, but says police acted properly.

Conditions at the shelter improved the day after the storm, when about half the evacuees were moved to other places.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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