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East County Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2009 13 years ago

Battery charges recommended for beating

by: Michael Eng Executive Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Despite a controversial YouTube video of the altercation, a fight involving several local teenagers likely will not yield anything more than misdemeanor charges.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office officials have completed their investigation of a fight that occurred just before 11 p.m., Sept. 27, in the parking lot of the Lakewood Ranch YMCA. The incident occurred during the YMCA’s 5th Quarter program, which is intended to give local youth a safe place to have fun following high school football games.

The investigation now has moved to the state attorney’s office, which will decide whether to charge a 13-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy with simple battery, a misdemeanor.

“It won’t be a whole lot,” said sheriff’s office spokesman Dave Bristow of the charges. “It’s a juvenile offense — not even public record.”

The fight grabbed headlines last week because a video of the altercation landed on YouTube. The video, posted by a user belonging to a group of teenagers called the TSAC, is a 54-second clip of the two teenagers beating up a 13-year-old boy as a large group of teenagers watched. The owner of the video overdubbed audio of a lullaby before the fight and heavy metal music as the beating ensued.

Mike McCann, Manatee County Public Schools head of dropout prevention and alternative education, said two of the students involved — a high school student and a middle school student — were reassigned to Horizons Academy following the fight. The reassignment came after district officials determined the fight as a blindsided attack on the victim.

“It was severe enough for us to be concerned for the safety of the students,” McCann said. “Looking at the video itself was sufficient enough to make the move.”

McCann would not say which schools the teenagers attended.

Both McCann and sheriff’s office investigators said the video gave them rare evidence to use in prosecuting suspects. However, the evidence isn’t able to show whether the fight was premeditated.

“The question was, ‘Was this all staged?’” McCann said. “We’re not convinced whether it was all predetermined.”

Other videos posted on YouTube by the TSAC depict teenagers performing a variety of dirt bike stunts at several schools throughout Manatee and Sarasota, smashing a child’s toy car with a baseball bat and setting fire in a public restroom.

However, McCann said he has not yet determined whether the TSAC was involved in the fight itself or simply had a camera when the incident began.

Manatee County YMCA CEO Sean Allison said the 5th Quarter events usually attract about 150 teenagers. The night of the fight, about 170 teens were at the YMCA.

Despite the altercation, Allison said the 5th Quarter events will continue with only a few changes.

“(The fight is) frustrating more than disappointing that we can’t — with all the support and supervision and control that you have over kids — seem to get (a grip on the violence),” he said.

“The only change we’re making is at some of the 5th Quarter events, we set up skateboard ramps outside,” Allison said. “We’re not going to do that anymore. We’re going to make sure all the activities are inside. We have a lot more control over it.”

Pam Eubanks contributed to this report.

Contact Michael Eng at [email protected].

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