Fairgoers attacked, allege official cover-up
July 26, 2008
By KAREN VELIE and DANIEL BLACKBURN
Three people were assaulted Wednesday night as they exited a shuttle bus after attending a Mid-State Fair concert. The victims contend fair and police officials are downplaying the incident to avoid negative publicity.
Following the John Mayer concert, the trio was about to board a shuttle bus at the fair’s main entrance when two young men boisterously pushed their way to the front of a nearby bus line, shouting “PR13,” a gang designation.
“We were saying how out of control they were,” said 28-year-old Robert Lindstrom, one of the victims. “They were walking in front of the fair yelling ‘PR13’ and elbowing people. I asked a policeman, ‘Aren’t you going to do anything?’ He shrugged and said, ‘I don’t know what I can do.’” Unbeknownst to Lindstrom and his friends, twelve more gang members already were on their bus.
Upon exiting the bus at Von’s Shopping Center in Paso Robles, one of the alleged gang members said to Don Burtis, “Can’t you control your bitch?” Though Burtis, 33, tried to ignore the comment and walk away, he was assaulted from behind by approximately a dozen young whites and Hispanics.
“I was walking up the stairway toward the parking lot,” Burtis said. “I was hit several times in the back of the head. I tried to get to the top of the stairs. They surrounded me and continued to beat me. Once we got up into the parking lot, I yelled ‘Help, Robert, help!’ Robert tried to help, but he ended up getting beat up himself.
“I am really upset the police haven’t gotten the tape off the bus. I believe someone is not being honest. The police or the fair do not want this to get out.”
The third victim, 26-year-old Lisha Beck, tried to pull gang members off her boyfriend.
“I turned around and a guy pushed me back and I saw them beating on Don,” Beck said. “I tried to help and a guy hit me. Don told me to run, but two people jumped on me. They were punching me in the face and I got knocked out. It was really bad.”
Lindstrom attempted to help, and was also beaten. After fleeing the lot, the victims called police, who responded quickly.
“They were obviously injured,” Paso Robles Police Sergeant David Bouffard said. “There are all types of fights at the fair no one knows about.”
Though the trio sported facial injuries, police were skeptical. Bouffard said the call came in about 12:30 a.m. He said the buses stop running at 11 p.m. and the victims said they had called shortly after the incident. He added that the victims had been drinking, and that the gang PR13 is made up of Hispanics, not whites.
According to the fair’s own schedule, the shuttles stop running at 1 a.m.
Lindstrom said he “went to school in Paso. There are whites and Hispanics in PR13. We told them [police] to get the video from the bus and the Von’s parking lot. I personally think there is a cover-up. They don’t want bad publicity and they are pushing everyone to ride these buses.”
The incident was not reported to the public by either the police department or Mid-State Fair organizers. Following the incident, fair officials canceled the Von’s Shopping Center shuttle due to what they termed “clerical issues.”
“This is not out of the ordinary,” said Paso Robles Police Captain Robert Burton. “We follow up on all our assaults.”