Police and mall managers will meet today to consider new security measures after nearly 150 teenagers and young adults participated in a brawl near the movie theater and food court at Westfield Franklin Park over the weekend.
The melee led to the arrests of 16 people Saturday, including a 14-year-old girl who assaulted an officer before being tackled and subdued with pepper spray and another teenage girl who kicked a trash can at police, reports show. It took about 30 police crews nearly three hours to disperse the crowd.
“I don't know what sparked this. We're going to be looking into it to be sure it doesn't spark again,” Toledo police Deputy Chief Mike Murphy said.
It was about 7 p.m. Saturday when Officer David Mosiniak, an off-duty Toledo police officer working as supplemental mall security, first called for backup to control a crowd of as many as 150 teenagers who were fighting and pushing each other in the food court.
The crowd seemed to disperse as police arrived.
But minutes later, several smaller groups formed and began to fight again.
Officer James Schlievert was arresting a boy, 16, who had tried to flee police when a 14-year-old girl punched the officer in his right arm and tried to free the boy about 8:15 p.m. Saturday, a police report said.
The girl ran as police lunged at her, and she was tackled to the ground and subdued with pepper spray before she was carried out of the mall.
Teenagers began yelling at police and another girl, 14, kicked a trash can at police officers before she too was arrested.
The three teens were arrested for assault, seven were arrested for failure to disperse, three for disorderly conduct, and two for criminal trespass, police reports said. Those arrested ranged in age from 14 to 16, and attend various Toledo public, suburban public, charter, and parochial schools.
Teenagers involved in the fight are students at McTigue Middle School, Rogers High School, Whitmer High School, Start High School, Bowsher High School, Central Catholic High School, Springfield High School, Phoenix Academy, and St. Clement Elementary School.
One adult, Jerome Woodward, 20, of 2906 Warsaw St., was arrested for disorderly conduct.
Police investigate at least a few violent incidents at the Westfield Franklin Park mall every year, records show, but it is unusual when fights involve such a massive crowd.
About 100 people brawled in the food court after an argument that originated during a late Thursday movie in December, 2007. No one was hurt and no arrests were made, police said.
In April, 2006, there was a melee involving at least 50 juveniles brawling in the food court. Four people, including two teens, were arrested in that incident and were charged with disorderly conduct.
Toledo police and mall officials agreed to increase security in December, 2006, after two males, 15 and 18, were hurt in a fight with a group of teens at the mall.
Police increased their presence at the mall with occasional visits from patrol and gang task-force officers, and off-duty officers to supplement mall security.
Mall shoppers seeking Presidents Day bargains yesterday seemed unfazed by the brawl Saturday.
News of the incident didn't keep Kelly Breniser and her 7-year-old daughter away from the mall.
After seeing small groups of teenagers fight at the shopping center before, Ms. Breniser said she hopes mall security gets beefed up.
She felt safe yesterday because “it's not at night and I don't have my 2-year-old.”
“Since the mall closes so early, I wouldn't think this would be a problem,” Ms. Breniser added. “I don't think putting the movie theater here was a good idea.”
JJ Brown and Grace Stockman were surprised yesterday to hear about the weekend brawl and exchanged theories about the incident outside the movie entrance.
“It's just kids acting out,” Ms. Stockman said. “But it doesn't bother me. I'll still shop here.”
“Hanging out, acting tough. It's not a place for that,” Mr. Brown said.
“They need to find a place for kids,” he said.
Shannon Jones was shopping with her daughter, A'Bria Johnson, 12, when she learned about the fights Saturday. She suggests that mall officials limit the size of teenage groups, but said she won't quit shopping if they don't.
“I have three daughters,” Ms. Jones said. “I can't tell them we can't come to the mall.”
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