L.B. Council Seeks Methods to Control Use of City Arena

Community Correspondent

Shaken by a weekend death at a rock concert at the Long Beach Arena and uneasy about conflicting reports on other concert-related violence, the City Council is looking into ways to exert more control over the city-owned facility.

At their regular meeting Tuesday, council members suggested a number of alternatives, from banning rock concerts to taking a more active role in deciding what artists are booked for the arena and banning specific artists.

One man died as a result of injuries after falling down twice during the opening act of Metallica before Saturday's concert by rock star Ozzy Osbourne. Three others were injured seriously enough to require hospitalization after they jumped from the balcony to the concert floor.

"I think there was serious damage done to the city's image," said downtown Councilman Marc A. Wilder. "What if at the next concert, the media shows up and waits for more pushing and shoving?"

City Manager John Dever is to report back to the council within 30 days with details about the city's agreement with Facility Management Inc., which operates the arena. Council members also asked for information on the impact of concerts on nearby neighborhoods.

"I think our greatest opportunity for action is working with FMI, since they are our contracting agency," Dever told the council.

FMI Marketing Director Mike McSweeney said FMI's contract with the city gives the company complete authority over what is booked at the arena, except for a few days each year that are reserved by the city's Convention and Visitor's Council.

"You have to remember it is a public facility and people should be allowed to do their events there," McSweeney said.

The request by council members followed a report by Police Chief Charles B. Ussery in which he denied that the concert presented an unusual law-enforcement problem.

"The level of violence that has been portrayed in the media is not consistent with our investigation," he said. "There were conflicts and skirmishes, and there were arrests, but the level of violence was consistent with what we usually see at rock concerts."

City police and FMI security staff met before the concert and decided to supplement in-house security with police, Ussery said. Long Beach Police worked the exterior of the convention center during each of the three-night concert series and had narcotics officers inside the arena Sunday, Ussery said.

John A. Loftus, 22, of Fullerton, fell as he was coming down concrete stairs, according to Police Lt. Norman Benson. Dean Grose, medical coordinator for the event, said that Loftus fell twice and apparently lost consciousness after the second fall. Grose said security guards summoned medical personnel who began cardiopulmonary resuscitation and summoned paramedics. Loftus was pronounced dead 10 minutes after he arrived at St. Mary Medical Center.

An autopsy showed that Loftus died of a broken neck, Bill Gold, spokesman for Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, said. The death was ruled accidental, Gold said. Toxicology reports to determing whether Loftus was under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be complete in about three weeks, he said.

Others Injured

Tuesday, Eric Hobbs, 17, of Newport Beach, had emerged from a coma, and was listed in fair condition at St. Mary Medical Center. Tom Dearinger, 23, of Buena Park was in good condition, also at St. Mary. A third victim, Timothy Mestas, 17, of Los Angeles, was released Monday, hospital spokesman Tom McCullough said. All three apparently suffered head injuries when they jumped from balcony seats to the concert floor.

Grose, who works for Event Medical Services, a Cerritos company that provides medical services to concerts and other events, said people at concerts sometimes try to jump from the balcony to get better seats on the auditorium floor.

St. Mary spokesman McCullough, said that about 10 other people who identified themselves as concert-goers were treated Saturday evening in the hospital's emergency room.

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