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Officer Who Cited "Bingo Yeller" Speaks Out

Retired Covington Police Officer Richard Webster, now in the employ of the Park Hills Police Department was working an off-duty security detail at Pike Place Bingo on Pike Street in Covington when he cited a man for yelling "bingo" in the crowded bingo hall. A Kenton County judge later upheld the disorderly conduct charge and ruled that 18-year old Austyn Whaley should stay away from Pike Place Bingo and avoid saying the word "bingo" for six months.

The uniqueness of the sentence was first published in a Cincinnati Enquirer story and was later picked up by Cincinnati TV news stations and then snowballed into a national story, including references on the Today Show, Anderson Cooper, Conan, and, apparently later Monday night, Jimmy Kimmel Live, among others.

Since the initial story was published, Webster has declined all media requests. Following Whaley's most recent national appearance, however, Webster has issued a statement exclusively to The River City News to elaborate on his side of the story. Here is his statement in full:

Considering the extensive attention given to the recent Bingo case, I feel that a more thorough explanation from a police officer point of view should be given. On the evening of February 8-9, 2013, I worked an off-duty private security detail at the Pike Place Bingo, as I have done for more than 15 years. My background includes more than 20 years in law enforcement, first with the Covington Police Department, from which I retired in 2010, and now with the Park Hills Police Department.

The event in question occurred in the early morning hours of February 9, 2013, during the Mainstrasse Village Mardi Gras festival.  The Mardi Gras street festival draws thousands of visitors into the area.
 
As I sat outside the bingo hall in a marked police cruiser, I observed three male subjects walking on the street toward Pike Place Bingo after 2:00 a.m.  The men paused outside the entrance to the bingo hall before deciding to enter.  Given that the men entered near the end of the midnight bingo, and did not necessarily fit into the demographic of the patrons, I entered the  bingo hall to observe. 
 
As I entered the hall, I witnessed one of the men, later identified as Austyn Whaley, yell, “bingo!”  
 
This caused the game to stop.  Upon learning that a ‘false bingo’ had been called, the patrons became notably upset and began to yell.   In past experience, I know that instances such as this have quickly escalated into arguments between patrons. Mr. Whaley was then detained and escorted from the building, outside to the sidewalk area. Mr. Whaley loudly insisted that he had done nothing wrong, and that he can say, “…anything he wanted to in a public place.”   
 
I attempted to explain to Mr. Whaley that this is not the case. The hall has public access for the bingo players who participate. The hall is rented by the bingo sponsor. Mr. Whaley continued to insist that this is not true, and that he can say anything he wanted. I attempted to explain my point in another way by using the analogy of a person walking into a theater and yelling “fire!” Mr. Whaley did not accept that explanation, either, continuing to insist that he can say whatever he wants, wherever he wants to do so in a public place.
 
Finally, I tried to explain to Mr. Whaley that the players pay to play. Many of the patrons pay to play bingo, with the hope of winning money that is needed for day-to-day necessities. They may hope to win enough to make the monthly rent, buy food, or diapers for a baby.  
 
Some of these players may throw away a bingo card upon hearing “bingo”, and this may cause them to lose. Bingo is taken very seriously by these players. Finally, I realized that Mr. Whaley simply refused to acknowledge that he had done something wrong.
 
Mr. Whaley was then escorted to the back of my police cruiser while I issued a citation to court. I issued a citation for disorderly conduct in the second degree, which allows Mr. Whaley to appear in court and state his side of the story.

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As we now know, the judge ruled in favor of the law.  He imposed his sentence, and the media show began.
 
I declined two live interview requests from local media, and did not wish to embarrass Mr. Whaley for something that I feel is being blown out of proportion. I still feel this way, but apparently Mr. Whaley does not, and has made the decision to embrace the media with open  arms, going so far as to disrespect the sentence handed down from the court and, in my opinion, mocking his sentence on TV.
 
While it is the right of every person to make any decision they wish, along with this right comes the responsibility to accept the consequences arising from their decision. It was my intent that  Mr. Whaley learn about the nature of the adult world, and our collective intolerance for rude and disruptive people.  Both the charge and the sentence are small, and the lesson learned should have been large.   I stand by my decision to cite Mr. Whaley to court, and the court agreed. It is a shame that Mr. Whaley refuses to accept responsibility for his actions.  

Statement from Park Hill Police Officer Richard Webster.

Photo: Bingo cards from a game at Pike Place Bingo/RCN file

Comments

D Quixote's picture

Shame is on all of us who think this is funny, or worth a lot of media attention. When did we all forget that freedom and rights require responsible behavior? Mr. Whaley should be ostracized by society, not celebrated.