Archive for Thursday, February 9, 2006

Deputies end Friday night fights

February 9, 2006

Johnson County Sheriff's deputies broke up a local high school "fight club" late last month involving De Soto teens.

Lt. Steve Quigg of the sheriff's office said deputies first started hearing rumors three weeks ago of organized fights involving De Soto High School students.

"We had no idea it was going on," he said. "A young enterprising student had decided to start up -- for lack of a better word -- a fight club to prove their toughness.

"They had the whole thing organized -- mouthpieces, rules, no striking in the face with the first one to tap out losing."

After hearing that two such events had occurred on Fridays in rural areas near De Soto, the sheriff's office placed eight patrol cars in the area the evening of Jan. 27. After a play at the high school that night, a caravan of eight carloads of teens were spotted driving to the selected spot.

"We decided we were going to break it up before there was a fight," Quigg said. "We pretty much knew where it was going to be and sure enough here they came. When they saw the police cars, they scattered like fleas on a hound."

Sheriff's deputies were able to stop the cars.

"To their credit, they admitted what they were there for," Quigg said. "They were there to fight."

Because there was no criminal activity requiring citations or arrests, the teens' parents were not informed. De Soto High School Principal Dave Morford said he was aware of the investigation that led to the Jan. 27 discovery. He did not discuss the incident with the teens before or after the incident because it was outside of school and because he didn't want to interfere with a police investigation.

The teens did get a stern lecture of what could have been in store for them had the deputies came upon a fight or a participant been seriously injured, Quigg said. Organizers and the fighter causing the injury would have been charged "at a minimum" with criminal battery, while the other students would have faced citations for unlawful assembly and criminal trespassing.

The fighters and organizers were also putting themselves at risk of civil action, Quigg said.

Apparently the warnings worked. Quigg said the sheriff's office saturated the De Soto area again Friday night and did not see any activity. The idea seemed to originate with the De Soto student, he said.

"If it's a fad, it's underground," he said. "We'd never heard of it before."

Although he joined in condemnation of the activity, Quigg gave a grudging nod to the organization.

"To our knowledge there was no outside sources coming in," he said. "There was no gambling involved. It was purely to see how tough you were.

"Our school resource officer mentioned that a couple of kids who had been involved the weeks before, he'd seen them. There was no indication they had been in a fight of any kind, nor were they kids he would have thought that would have been in a fight. Apparently the safeguards worked."

It was the second student-organized game to surface in De Soto this school year. In November, the sheriff's office approached students about a game of "Mafia," in which students took turns being hit men and victims, using air guns to ambush each other around town.1

The sheriff's office was concerned because of the possibility the guns could have been mistaken for actual weapons. Quigg said students had discontinued the game when sheriff's office deputies approached them about it.

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