Pratt attempts to elude arrest after Des Moines Dragons game, by Michael McNarney, The Tribune, Ames, Iowa, Feb. 18, 1998


By Michael McNarney
Staff Writer

WEST DES MOINES — Kenny Pratt ran.

Seconds after he and his Fargo Beez teammates won an International Basketball League playoff game against the Des Moines Dragons at Dowling High School Tuesday night, Pratt ran away from his coach, his teammates, and the West Des Moines police officers who were waiting to arrest him for not paying year-old Story County court fines.

So instead of paying $165 bond and promising to appear in court later in Ames — a deal offered to him before the game by West Des Moines police — Pratt spent last night first in the West Des Moines Jail and then at the Polk County Jail. His Story County bond was increased to $1,200, and a West Des Moines bond made for a total of $1,650. He posted bond through a bonding company and was released at 5:10 this morning.

His teammates, instead of enjoying a victory ride to Fargo, waited on their bus in the police station parking lot while their coaches tried to order them pizzas and scrounge up motel rooms from a police lobby pay phone.

Tuesday's episode actually began more than a year ago when Pratt failed to pay Story County fines and fees after he was arrested for disorderly conduct at an Ames bar in September 1996. Pratt paid $175 but still owes $130. Pratt also still owes $1,290 from a drunken driving arrest in January 1997 (the charge was dropped as part of a plea bargain). He moved in May without giving the court a forwarding address.

West Des Moines Police Lt. Jeff Miller got a call from Ames police Monday, asking that he arrest Pratt — his game in West Des Moines was well-publicized in advance — and charge him with contempt of court for not paying the $130.

Miller, Pratt, and Beez coach Rory White met before tip-off and agreed that Pratt would not resist arrest — and he was allowed to play the game under the eye of two police officers.

And Pratt played well, White said, scoring 17 points off the bench and helping the Beez beat the Dragons 117-116. After the victory, Beez players gathered at midcourt and hugged. Pratt was in the middle.

As fans flooded the floor and players walked to their locker rooms, Pratt broke away and went up a stairway crowded with spectators. News reporters, knowing Pratt was to be arrested, moved toward him. Pratt — still in his gold and black shorts and tank top uniform — burst past bewildered fans at the top of the steps and took off running.

A throng of reporters, fans and friends took off in pursuit, chasing him along the school building's west side. Police were still in the locker room, searching in vain and unaware of the frenzy outside.

As Pratt got closer to Buffalo Road — the road that passes in front of Dowling — most reporters broke off the chase to do live 10 p.m. news reports. Those remaining were intercepted at Buffalo Road by an unidentified man, apparently a friend of Pratt's, who threatened harm if they did not turn back.

Pratt was not seen again until a man identified in news reports as Des Moines Register photographer David Peterson spotted him at the Hardee's at Northwest 86th Street and University Avenue in Clive, a mile and a half from Dowling, and called police.

Police Lt. Miller said Pratt got into a Variety Club of Iowa van driven by one of his friends. Miller said he didn't know the driver's name, but he did know the driver wouldn't be charged.

Peterson, according to The Register, had followed the van, which attempted to elude him. After Peterson notified police, Patrolman Jeff Cline pulled the van over at 22nd Street and Interstate 235, two miles south of Hardee's. Pratt was arrested without further incident, said police spokesman Sgt. Joe Torruella, who was also at the scene.

West Des Moines police sent two officers to the game to arrest Pratt at its conclusion. But when Pratt took off, there weren't enough police on hand to cover all the exits.

Miller and Officer Aaron Quooiker, the two officers assigned to arrest Pratt, covered the locker room door and the northeast stairs. Two other officers — including Torruella — hired by the Dragons to work security at the game were elsewhere. The northwest stairs, where Pratt escaped, went unguarded.

"I kind of figured he'd run," Torruella said after winded and mud-spattered WHO-TV reporter Carol Maloney, fresh from chasing Pratt, interviewed him live. Torruella covered the main gym doors and said he was watching for any departing "spectators" wearing a coat over shorts, thinking Pratt may escape in disguise.

Besides his Story County contempt charge, Pratt is charged with interfering with police in West Des Moines.

The Beez and Dragons play next — with or without Pratt — Saturday in Fargo.

Copyright 1998 Partnership Press Inc.

Feb. 18, 1998