By Pat Jenkins
Minors who tried to hide their drinking party in the woods near Graham didn’t get away with it.
Authorities assigned to the Pierce County Party Intervention Patrol cited 14 underage drinkers, ages 17 to 20, after a tip led the multi-agency team to a bonfire deep in the woods near the Lipoma Firs neighborhood.
Beginning at 11 p.m. on June 14, officers hiked into the area, observed the party and made arrests on suspicion of minor-in-possession and trespassing.
As some of the drinkers attempted to flee the scene party in their 4×4 vehicles, two were arrested by the State Patrol’s DUI-dedicated Target Zero team. Both drivers’ blood alcohol level tested at twice the legal limit, and one of them had a handgun that was taken away by the troopers, officials reported.
Among the arrested minors taken to the Intervention Patrol team’s processing center in east Pierce County was a 17-year-old who was given medical aid for injuries he suffered in a fight at the party.
Another minor told officers that several previous illegal parties had been held at the same woodsy location in spite of “no trespassing” signs being posted.
A spokesman for the patrol team said authorities planned to talk to the property owner to help prevent future illegal parties at the site.
In a second incident, this one in the Gem Heights area of South Hill,
authorities responding to a noise complaint found a large group of teenagers drinking at a residence. As police arrived, parents were seen picking up their children, indicating they may have been tipped off that police were on the way, officials said.
At the party, a juvenile outside the house had passed out and was assessed for alcohol poisoning, then taken to the processing center, where he was arrested. He received an intervention from a chemical dependency professional before being picked up by his father, officials said.
Another teen, whose brother had been arrested at an illegal graduation party last year, was arrested after he jumped over a fence in an attempt to get away from police.
Officers the Gem Heights homeowner that underage drinking isn’t a “gray area” of the law, and that it’s illegal to provide alcohol to anyone under 21 or to allow private property to be used for underage drinking – a message the general public needs to heed, as well, said.
Most homeowners’ insurance policies don’t extend liability coverage for illegal alcohol-related injuries and deaths from things like drowning, falls and poisoning according to Bob Thompson, who was the supervisor of the Party Intervention Patrol team in the South Hill incident.