Leaders at the Lincoln Indian Center plan to meet Monday to discuss policies and restrictions for future Husker game days after an incident during a tailgate Saturday left a police officer in the hospital, caused thousands of dollars in damage and resulted in at least 13 arrests.
Abraham Banuelos, 27, was arrested on charges of assaulting Lincoln Police Officer Jessica Stake, who was hit in the head with a full can of beer, according to police.
Stake was released from the hospital Saturday night. Banuelos remained in jail late Sunday.
The parking lot at 10th Street and Military Road has long been a favorite for tailgaters, but the Indian Center’s executive director Clyde Tyndall said with each year, the gameday parties have grown wilder and wilder as more students attend with large quantities of alcohol.
Hours before kickoff, as Nebraska prepared to take on the Miami Hurricanes at Memorial Stadium, some 3,000 tailgaters were shotgunning beers and dancing to the loud music in their truck beds above strewn cans and bottles.
At about 3 p.m., three buses arrived carrying 170 passengers who were taking part in a Here for Beer tailgate. The company had rented out the space and three portable restrooms, which had originally been roped off.
Earlier in the afternoon, tailgaters had taken down the ropes and filled the area. Here for Beer paid $1,500 for the space, including the $5 fee for each attendee as well as separate charges for the restrooms and vehicle parking.
After rumors circulated that the buses were full of Miami fans, Saturday’s crowd began throwing beer cans and bottles at the buses, kicking them and ripping off the license plates. Witnesses said some people were yelling “Flip the bus! Flip the bus!” and pushing on the sides, shaking one of the buses.
Dana Horton, Here for Beer's director of operations, said although there were about 10 Miami fans on the bus, there was no way the tailgaters could see inside. For about 45 minutes, Horton said the crowd surrounded the buses — climbing around and on top of them. By the end, the buses had dents on the sides and the roof, broken tail lights and one broken windshield. Full cans of beer came through the windows, hitting six of the passengers, two in the head and four in the back.
An Indian Center employee made the first call to the police. A few officers arrived and later called for backup, which included 30 Lincoln police officers, eight Lancaster County sheriff's deputies, a Nebraska State Patrol helicopter and multiple police dogs. University of Nebraska-Lincoln police provided a van to transport those who were arrested.
Once the police started asking for identification, the crowd dispersed, Horton said. Most of the tailgaters were gone by the start of the game, but officers asked the Here for Beer group to leave before the postgame crowd arrived. The buses were packed by 7 p.m. and had to find another parking lot.
The riot and mess left by Saturday’s crowd are not the image the Indian Center wants to promote, Tyndall said. He hopes to dispel the misconceptions about the event — starting with getting tailgaters to stop.
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“We aren’t ‘the res’ as the students call us,” Tyndall said. “We are a private nonprofit that depends on the revenue from sponsoring tailgates.”
On average, the center makes about $10,000 per home game, said finance director Bobby Robinette. With seven home games this year, that totals about 10 percent of the center's annual income, which is then funneled into programs such as the commodity food program and the employment program.
Tyndall wants one thing to be clear: The center wants to disprove the association of Native Americans and alcoholism.
“We hope that the slang name and the stereotypes with us will disappear as we find a way to make adjustments to our tailgates,” he said.
Horton, of Here for Beer, hopes to see the tailgate change as well.
“The Indian Center really did seem like a good place for us, and we spent a lot of time planning our event,” he said. “I understand that this is a revenue source for them, but they needed to invest some of that money into security.”
After the center's executive board meeting Monday, Tyndall hopes to take the suggestions to work with Lincoln police and UNL student representatives to help change the reputation.
“It needs to get back to a family tailgate here,” Tyndall said. “We want to emphasize safety. We don’t want to just have a whole bunch of students partying around and causing trouble. Making those changes might hurt our bottom line, but we need to emphasize safety.”
Robinette said possible options could include an increase in the per-person charge, or temporary fencing around the lot to limit the crowd.
Though Horton hopes to see these changes, beyond the safety concerns, he said, the experience showed him a side of Nebraska he doesn’t want to see on game day.
“I’ve never been more ashamed of Husker fans,” Horton said.