The night started innocently enough with free tickets in the upper bowl of the Palace to watch the Pistons take on the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
After a flung quarter, a visit to the Auburn Hills Police Department and a long walk down Telegraph, Dennis Pauley, a 31-year-old Taylor man, has everyone asking:
What was he thinking?
"It's amazing that somebody, after going through what we went through in November, could come in here and throw anything," said Tom Wilson, president and chief executive officer of Palace Sports and Entertainment.
"I'm stunned that somebody would do something like this."
Fans sitting behind the team benches at the Palace on Tuesday night pointed Pauley out as the culprit behind a flying quarter that hit 76ers guard Allen Iverson in the back during a timeout late in the fourth quarter, police said.
After being arrested and released from the Auburn Hills Police Department, Pauley, whose driver's license had been suspended for substance-abuse convictions and whose friends abandoned him after the game, said it took him about six hours to walk from the Auburn Hills Police Department to 12 Mile and Telegraph in Southfield, where he caught a bus about 6 a.m.
Pauley is charged with being in a seat he didn't have a ticket for and throwing an object onto the playing surface, both violations of local ordinances. The misdemeanors carry a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine if he is convicted.
Pauley's friend, 26-year-old Michael Roberts of Lincoln Park, also is charged with being in a seat he didn't have permission to be in.
Neither Pauley nor Roberts has been arraigned yet, but Auburn Hills Police Lt. James Manning said Wednesday warrants are signed and the men would have a chance to turn themselves in.
The quarter incident comes in the wake of the ugly Nov. 19 brawl between Indiana Pacers players and fans at the Palace after a fan threw a cup at Pacer Ron Artest, creating a national spectacle replayed ad nauseam on television for weeks.
Trials for the five Pacers players and four fans charged with misdemeanor assault and battery will begin this summer. Bryant Jackson of Mundy Township, who police said threw a metal chair during the brawl, is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday in Oakland County Circuit Court.
Last month, a bomb threat delayed the start of a Pistons-Pacers game for about 90 minutes.
On Wednesday, Wilson credited good security and alert fans, who immediately pointed Pauley out as the quarter-thrower, with preventing a repeat of the brawl.
"We're tired of being painted as bad fans," said Wilson, who was watching the game from behind the team benches. "We're not."
Player professionalism also played a part.
"Allen handled it the way Ron Artest should have handled it," Wilson said.
Pauley spoke to members of the news media in front of his father's home in Taylor on Wednesday and apologized to Iverson, the 76ers, the Pistons, the city of Auburn Hills, the fans -- and for embarrassing his family and friends.
"It was stupid at the time," he said.
Roberts said he and Pauley decided to move to better seats late in the game. They picked out two empty seats next to some friends.
"It's not like I went down there with any malicious intent. I just wanted to get closer to the action," Roberts said. He said his friend even joked about tossing the coin before he did it.
"I said, 'Dude, don't throw that quarter. That's stupid,'" said Roberts, who'd been taunting 76er Chris Webber in typical fan fashion when the idea surfaced. Then he turned his attention to his beer.
When Roberts looked up, he said he saw the quarter sail through the air and strike Iverson.
Roberts played dumb, until a security guard tapped his shoulder.
On Wednesday, he didn't come home until the afternoon and at first unplugged his phone. When he finally plugged it back in, he learned about the potential consequence of his seat swap.