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The Siege of Fulton Avenue

Just after midnight, Rye police arrived to bust a house full of partying teenagers. The kids refused to unlock the door, and parents and cops flooded the street. A minute-by-minute account of the standoff.

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The MacBride family home in Rye, New York.  

“In a twist in the continuing saga of underage drinking in Westchester County, police officers who responded to a noise complaint at a house party recently got an unusual reception: The high school students at the party closed the doors, turned out the lights and hunkered down for three hours.”—New York Times, May 14, 2004

“I am perplexed as to why American citizens, regardless of their age, who have the education and wherewithal to assert their constitutional rights not to have officers of the state enter a private residence without a warrant, would be uniformly described in your May 14 news article . . . as ‘arrogant,’ ‘stupid,’ ‘nervy,’ ‘brazen’ and ‘audacious.’ I have another word for it: patriotic.”—Michael J.Z. Mannheimer, a criminal-defense lawyer, in a letter to the Times, May 20, 2004

12:30 A.M.
David MacBride was standing at the front door of his house, saying good-bye to a friend, when he saw the police cruiser lurching up the street. This, of course, meant only one thing—

“Get the lights!”

“Kill the music!”

“Lock the doors!”

“Be quiet!”

It was kind of funny, and then just flat-out frustrating, how later on the papers would chalk up this decision to the considerable wealth of the area (median household income: $110,894), to the fact that these were kids raised by bankers and lawyers, kids with the gumption to know their constitutional rights. Because let’s be honest. Cops busted parties all the time, and this was just what you did: hunkered down, zipped your lips, and after about 30 minutes, the police would be on their way. It was an unwritten rule. A kind of discreet warning from authority to adolescents: Tone it down. Once, a cop had even come inside and played a quick round of beer pong, a drinking game not worth explaining. Another time, the kids videotaped the scene: officers standing around outside, yawning, leaving, the end. The exact scenario had played out in this exact house, as a matter of fact. Four or five times. Why should tonight be any different?

12:32 A.M.
MacBride, 19, made his way through the house, quickly, quietly, alerting everyone to the police presence. And who were all these people, anyway? Little grinning clusters of them, everywhere you turned, kids who were bopping to hip-hop one minute, the Grateful Dead the next, sipping Coors Light and Budweiser. At least 50. Maybe more. Guys sporting khaki shorts, crimped baseball caps, creased Oxford shirts, flip-flops; girls in tight jeans, tighter tank tops, tiny flounce skirts. Some didn’t even go to MacBride’s school, Rye High, a regal old Gothic structure in this storied suburb of landscaped lawns and luxury SUVs, a place where popular after-school activities include boating and horseback riding.

Indeed, it was always the same: Your parents are out of town (in Ireland this weekend), you invite a few people over (no more than fifteen), you stress that it’s to be a small, intimate affair. Seriously. But then someone can’t help but tell their friends, who tell their friends, who tell their friends, and all of a sudden you don’t recognize half the people roaming around your own home.

MacBride was more than a little annoyed. In fact, just a moment ago he’d grabbed his close buddy, George Ladd, a 19-year-old senior with cloudy blue eyes and a jawline you could use to crack open a walnut, and asked him for a favor.

“I’m about to lose it,” MacBride said. “Do me a favor, and start kicking people out.”

But it was already too late.

12:38 A.M.
Those who knew the layout of MacBride’s house best, like Ladd, sprinted upstairs to the attic, a bare-bones room with a slanted ceiling that was freezing in the winter, an unforgiving kiln in the summer, but perfectly tepid on this April night. There were about eight adrenalized kids sequestered up there, hanging out around a card table, trying not to laugh.

“You sure this is normal?” someone wondered out loud.

12:42 A.M.
MacBride retreated to his bedroom on the ground floor along with a few friends. He remained calm. Everything would be over soon—hopefully. MacBride wasn’t well known in Rye, a place where Being Known is as essential as Being Fed: He’d moved to the States from Ireland two years ago because of his father’s finance job and had no real roots here, which often came in handy, especially during times like these.

MacBride’s window was directly above the basketball hoop bolted above the garage, allowing a bird’s-eye view of the driveway. A single police car pulled up and parked in the street. “Here we go,” he said, peering out from behind the blinds.

12:45 A.M.
Mike Paxton, a notoriously mischievous little guy with strawberry-blond hair, had snuck off into the garage alone. Why? Why not? He sat down next to MacBride’s bright-yellow Subaru Baja, and stared at his sneakers.

12:48 A.M.
Everyone else—about 40 kids—darted down to the basement: sinking into the three couches, or crouching under the Foosball table, or behind the air-hockey table, or, if they were stragglers, simply lying down flat on the white carpet like a trove of undiscovered mummies. Among them was a senior named Andrew Namoury, 17, a future Indiana University freshman, a goofy, stocky guy with deep-brown eyes and frizzy hair tucked into a baseball cap—a designated driver tonight. (Something about these guys: They had a policy to rotate who got pinned with designated-driver status.) He was slouched on the white couch in the back with three spunky New Rochelle girls whom he’d met in the Bahamas on spring break—not such a bad deal, considering.

“What the hell is this?” one whispered to him.

“Nothing,” he assured her. “This goes down all the time. The cops’ll be gone in, like, an hour, max.”

That’s when the doorbell started to ring—once, twice, three times . . .


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