By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun
7:13 PM EST, February 7, 2013
Ravens officials said Thursday they won't extend an open invitation to fans again without first passing out free tickets, after this week's Super Bowl celebration at M&T Bank Stadium where larger-than-expected crowds amassed and an 11-year-old boy was trampled.
Tiffany Hodge said she brought her son to the stadium from East Baltimore with hopes that he could see his hero, running back Ray Rice, but an unruly crowd overwhelmed them and both were knocked unconscious. She said her son, Tyrek, suffered a concussion, an injury to his eye, and still has a swollen face.
"I was holding my son's hand, but instantly it was gone," Hodge said in an interview Thursday. "It was too late. They had already trampled on top of us."
An estimated 200,000 people packed downtown for a parade that began at City Hall and ended at the stadium to celebrate the championship team on Tuesday.
Ravens team president Dick Cass said that neither the team nor police anticipated a crowd that large. He said police "did an extraordinarily good job of controlling the crowd and avoiding any major safety issues."
"In the future, if we had to do it again, we would have a ticketed event at the stadium," Cass said. "They would be free tickets, but we would hand out tickets so people would know they could get into the stadium. If you didn't have a ticket, you couldn't go. I think that was probably the major potential safety issue. Next time we do this, we'll know better."
Most fans enjoyed the event without incident, according to police and team.
A few blocks from the parade route, a teenager was fatally stabbed as people were leaving the event. City officials said there was no connection to the parade, but police Thursday released video that shows a purple-clad suspect attacking 15-year-old Deontae Smith as others dressed in Ravens gear look on. Deontae's mother said he skipped school to attend the parade and questioned whether police played down the killing.
During the parade, some fans broke past the barriers along the parade route and marched behind a Humvee carrying linebacker Ray Lewis. And videos have circulated on the Internet showing people scaling the iron fences at the stadium and swarming one entry point, after officials said the facility had reached its capacity.
Patrick Gleason, a team spokesman, said team and Maryland Stadium Authority officials will meet soon to review how the event was handled, but he said security was adequately prepared and no more people required medical assistance than on a normal game day. As for the fans who scaled the fences, Gleason said police officers were alerted to the situation and responded quickly.
Gleason said he was aware of the Tyrek Hodge incident but not the extent of his injuries.
Cass said he had never seen anything like the Super Bowl event. Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said at the rally that team officials had expected 30,000 fans and thought they might have to open the stadium's upper deck to accommodate the crowd. Ravens fans actually filled all stadium seats and much of the field.
"I don't think any NFL team had had a celebration quite like that, with that type of crowd, as large as it was, both on the streets and in the stadium. So, it was amazing, and I know our players were moved by it, deeply moved by it," Cass said. "With the benefit of hindsight, we did not anticipate the size of that crowd. I don't think the police anticipated the size of that crowd."
911 records for the Police Department's Central District, which includes downtown, show that from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. police received double the number of calls compared with the same period last year. There were several calls for assaults and disorderly conduct, but few reports were written, with the calls coded as "abated" or "no police service necessary."
Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, in an email Tuesday night to members of the department, said he was impressed by his and other agencies' "fluidity to engage and move resources on the fly to ensure the safest conditions possible under extreme circumstances."
"Like John Harbaugh said about the Raven's Super Bowl victory, it may not have been pretty … and when thousands of people decided to join the parade to M&T Bank Stadium, many of us were agreeing with that statement," Batts wrote. "But, like the Ravens, we got the job done and did it in championship fashion."
Batts called the stabbing a "sad stain on an otherwise excellent performance by the City of Baltimore."
Hodge said the experience for her son was "traumatic." She said attending games is expensive, so the opportunity to see players at a free event was an obvious draw. They hopped the No. 40 bus to City Hall but decided to head toward the stadium when they heard the team's arrival would be delayed.
The stadium was closed before the parade arrived because it had reached capacity.
At the stadium, Hodge said the gates were closed and some people were waiting. She didn't see security or police. When someone opened the gate, she said fans started pushing forward. Tyrek was wearing boots, tripped, and fell.
Hodge believes that a concession worker grabbed her son and pulled him to safety, while a security guard eventually pulled her out of the crowd. A police report for an "injured person" confirms that Tyrek suffered head trauma after a "mob of people, 150 to 200, forced themselves through" Gate C, at the southeast corner of the stadium.
"A lot of people took things a little too far," the mother said. "With a free admission to get in, that is going to create a huge crowd."
Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Zrebiec and Carrie Wells contributed to this story.
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