Teen involved in Toledo mall fight had handgun www.privateofficer.com
Toledo OH March 3 2012 A 14-year-old boy with a loaded handgun was one of six teenagers involved in a “large fight” at Toledo’s Westfield Franklin Park mall over the weekend, police said.
Toledo police officers who were working at the mall responded to the fight in the food court at about 7:40 p.m. Saturday where a crowd — about 40 or 50 people — was involved in a fist fight.
The 14-year-old with the revolver dropped the gun as he tried to leave the scene, police said. Another teen tried to pick up the gun but was then arrested.
Four juveniles were arrested and charged, police said. The 14-year-old with the gun and his 16-year-old brother were both charged with carrying a concealed weapon. The other boys were charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing official business.
The brothers, from West Toledo, were both ordered to be held in detention, said Lori Olender, a juvenile prosecutor. Another boy was issued a summons, and the fourth was released from the detention center and put on community control, Ms. Olender said.
Toledo police Sgt. Joe Heffernan said it’s unclear why the fight started or if the brawl was gang related.
“We have this issue all the time,” the sergeant said. “This isn’t anything that’s new. We go through these spurts at the mall, we have as long as I can remember. … It’s not an every day thing, but it’s nothing out of the usual.”
The gun, police said, has been booked into the department’s property room.
“How and why these kids have these guns, you know, I don’t know,” Sergeant Heffernan said. “Is it a case of irresponsible gun ownership? Did he steal the gun? Did he buy the gun on the street? I don’t know if we’ll ever really know.”
The fight in the food court occurred a week after Toledo police officers were called to the mall for a report of gunshots in the parking lot near the Elephant Bar and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
A police dispatcher confirmed last week that police arrived at the mall on Feb. 18 at about 9:30 p.m. but were unable to determine if a shooting had occurred. Crews only reported a group of people running.
On Monday, the mall’s general manager, Erika Williams, issued a written statement: “Westfield Franklin Park continues to consider safety of paramount importance. Although an isolated incident occurred on Saturday evening involving an altercation among several juveniles, it is important to note that the individuals involved were very promptly detained by police without incident or injury to other shoppers. We believe this favorable outcome occurred as a result of a significant presence of uniformed and trained mall security officers, working in coordination with a uniformed and trained Toledo police. In addition to the mall’s exterior security patrols, TPD has deployed a police cruiser to augment the mall’s own patrol vehicles to ensure it is safe outside the mall, as well as inside the mall.”
After a melee at the mall in February, 2010, during which about 150 students had to be quelled by police, the mall issued a zero-tolerance policy for unruly teenagers. It said it would no longer warn teenagers who misbehave before removing or temporarily banning them from the property. The mall also beefed up security on weekends.
The mall’s code of conduct has 17 sections, which declare no obscene language, no disruptive behavior, no riding bikes and skate boards, and no weapons, among other rules.
A city curfew law restricts children and teens from public places during certain times unless they are with a parent or guardian, on their way home directly from work or at a lawful, adult-supervised event, or responding to an emergency or life-threatening situation.
Those under 11 are restricted from public places from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Those ages 11 to 15 are restricted from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. For those 16 and 17, the curfew is from midnight to 5 a.m.
The mall is a destination for people in Toledo, and because so many people visit daily, there will, at some point, be a problem, Sergeant Heffernan said. “It’s inevitable, especially given how juveniles are prone to handling situations through fighting, you’re sometimes going to have a fight. No matter how much you try to prevent it, at some point you’re going to have one.”
One person was treated for a nose bleed after the brawl, but no other injuries were reported.
“Thankfully nobody got hurt,” Sergeant Heffernan said. “We are dealing with kids. A 14-year-old doesn’t rationalize like an adult does, so a 14-year-old isn’t going to understand all the consequences of picking up a firearm and taking it to the mall. He might know it’s wrong, but I guarantee he hasn’t thought out all the consequences, and that’s partially because he’s 14 years old.”