Police used pepper spray on crowds of Chaney High School students to break up two fights at 8 a.m. and 8:35 a.m. Tuesday.
“I imagine the officers used [pepper spray] as a last resort,” said school board President Anthony Catale, who wasn’t aware of the fights until told by The Vindicator Wednesday. “The bottom line is we’re trying to change a culture throughout the school district. We’ve built momentum. Granted, there are incidents like this that we have to deal with.”
Superintendent Wendy Webb couldn’t be reached by The Vindicator late Wednesday to comment.
Two students involved in the first incident needed medical assistance after Patrolman Michael Walker, who was working security at the school, used pepper spray when the two refused to stop fighting, according to a police report.
The 8 a.m. fight took place in the school cafeteria between two 15-year-old boys, one who lives on North Evanston Avenue and the other who lives on West Boston Avenue, the report states.
Walker, working at the school, on South Hazelwood Avenue, ordered the two boys to stop fighting several times and announced he’d use pepper spray if they continued, the report continues. After they refused to stop, the officer used a “short burst” of pepper spray.
Police charged the two with disorderly conduct and released them.
Walker also used the spray to “disperse a very large crowd of juveniles” who were at the fight scene, his police report states. No injuries were reported.
Then at 8:35, Patrolman Malik Mostella, also working security at Chaney, responded to another fight in the school’s center hallway by the old gymnasium.
The officer saw a 17-year-old Volney Road student hit a 14-year-old Ravenwood Avenue boy in the face, according to a second police report.
When that happened, “several students jumped in, trying to help both sides,” Mostella wrote in his report.
“Not being able to break up the fight physically or with verbal commands,” Mostella used a two-second “burst” of pepper spray into the crowd, which stopped the fight, the report states. The report contains no mention of injuries from the use of the spray.
The 17-year-old ran away but was caught and charged with assault. He was going to be released after being issued a summons, but the report states he was taken into custody for trying to start another fight with another student. He was turned over to a Mahoning County juvenile police officer, but the report doesn’t state if he was taken to the juvenile justice center.