Checkpoints Stoke Frustration Among Flood Victims

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) -- Police twice caught a man in his flood-damaged home before the property had been cleared by city inspectors. But Rick Blazek vowed to return - even if he had to sneak behind bushes.

"Once I'm in there, I'm not coming out unless they have handcuffs and leg shackles," he pledged Sunday at a checkpoint where authorities were limiting access.

That's what happened Monday when officers pulled Blazek out of his pickup after he tried to run a checkpoint. When he allegedly bumped an Iowa state trooper with the truck, police drew their guns, broke a window on his vehicle and wrestled Blazek out. He was charged with assaulting an officer.

Blazek was among thousands of flood victims frustrated by authorities' decision Monday to cut off access to flood-damaged homes because of safety concerns. About 25,000 people have had to leave their homes since the Cedar River began flooding.

There were no other arrests.

"I hope it's the only one that we have," police Sgt. Cristy Hamblin said. "I understand people are very upset and justly so. But most of the citizens have been very patient. I know they are not angry at the police. They're angry at the situation."

At a checkpoint on the other side of town, pastor Mike Gray stood ready to counsel anguished homeowners.

"One lady was disappointed she couldn't spend more time with her home," said Gray, of the Valley View Baptist Church. "Yesterday, there were people getting angry. You can understand that."

At the checkpoint Blazek tried to run, Dennis Usher was keeping his misery in check. The 63-year-old retired college athletic director said he had no idea when he would get back into his home just two blocks from the river, but he was resigned to waiting.

And he didn't blame city officials for their response.

"I don't think anyone expected this," he said.


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