Cadets Vent at West Point After Drug Searches

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 28, 2006

At least 1,000 West Point cadets demonstrated last week against the manner in which a drug search was carried out in their barracks, shouting and throwing fireworks and other objects from their windows, according to accounts of the incident.

"Hundreds of cadets were hollering obscenities out of their windows and some were throwing objects," according to an incident summary obtained by the Times Herald-Record of Orange County, N.Y., which ran an article about the incident yesterday.

The report, written by a duty officer, also stated, "It was a shameful, pitiful day" for the United States Military Academy, the official name of the institution, which trains students to be Army officers.

"A team-size element of firemen responded to the scene as cadets were throwing objects that were on fire out of the windows in Bradley Barracks," the incident report said. One cadet was reportedly hit with a jar of peanut butter but was not hurt.

The incident report also stated that "about 2,000 cadets were involved and witness to this travesty," according to the newspaper.

But Lt. Col. Kent P. Cassella, a spokesman for West Point, said that the report was "an over-dramatization" of what happened, and said it overstated the number of those involved. He said he had been told that no more than 1,000 students were involved. The student body consists of 4,000 cadets.

The officer's report called the incident a riot, but Cassella disputed that characterization. "The term 'riot' is going a little too far," he said. "They blew off steam." He said he did not know the name or rank of the officer who wrote the report.

Cassella said he believes that the incident grew out of a "misperception" among cadets that they had been tricked into complying with a surprise drug search. They had been awakened around dawn on April 19 for a fire drill, but while they were still outside, police squads entered the buildings with drug-sniffing dogs. Frustration built during the day, and the outburst began at about 10:30 that night and lasted an hour, he said.

No narcotics were found in the search, and no disciplinary charges have been brought since the incident.

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