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8 arrested in melee outside Harding High School

Published: Thu, September 3, 2009 @ 12:10 a.m.

‘There was great potential for somebody to get hurt,’ the police chief said.

By Ed Runyan

WARREN — About 50 students fighting in five “pockets” outside Warren G. Harding High School and spilling across Elm Road resulted in eight arrests but only a couple of minor injuries, Warren’s police chief said.

The six Warren police officers working at about 2 p.m. Tuesday responded to the school parking lot when Tim Brown, the school’s resource officer, called for help, Chief Tim Bowers said.

Additional officers with the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitives Task Force who were in Warren serving arrest warrants also assisted, he said.

The scene became dangerous, Bowers said, because some youths refused to comply with officers when they tried to break up the fights.

“They tried to challenge the police,” Bowers said. At least one student involved in the fighting and at least one student not involved climbed onto the back of police officers, and one officer’s weapon was knocked from him onto the ground momentarily, he added.

Seeing youths wanting to “turn their aggression toward the police” represents a “change in the social norms” of the community, Bowers said.

One girl suffered bumps and bruises in the parking lot of a former restaurant across Elm Road from the school, and one of the people arrested suffered a bruise to his head but was treated at the scene, police said. No weapons were found among the teens, he noted.

“They did a good job,” Bowers said of the police officers. “Nobody got hurt, and there was great potential for somebody to get hurt.”

The police report from the incident had not been completed by late Wednesday afternoon and was not being released until Thursday, a records official said.

Bowers said it appears that the fighting was related to an incident that occurred in February involving a young man who was beaten up and his bicycle stolen.

An elderly man residing off Atlantic Street a short distance from the school said fights on school grounds, in the vacant restaurant parking lot across the street and in other places just across Elm Road from the school occur about once a week.

He said Tuesday’s melee, which seemed to last for an hour, appeared to involve 300 to 400 youths, many of whom were just watching, he said.

The man, who has lived there for about 25 years, says he’s seen a lot more fighting involving youths walking home after school in the last five to six years.

“If you ask them not to cut through the yard, they’ll swear at you, like, ‘Who do you think you are? I can come through this property if I want,’” he said.

Many of the neighbors now deploy dogs, possess firearms and stay inside at various times.

Aaron Schwab, communications director for the school district, said fights do not occur on school property on a weekly basis, though he can’t speak for what happens off school grounds.

He said he believes Tuesday’s incident became more noticeable than other fights because it occurred at the end of the school day, when many vehicles were traveling in and out of the school lot.

The fight created a “bottleneck” for the traffic, he said.


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