5 arrested as police disperse hundreds at theater
Updated On: Dec 27 2013 03:56:51 AM EST
As police broke up a disturbance involving hundreds of young people outside a Northside theater on Christmas night, two young men and three juveniles -- one a teenage girl -- were arrested.
More than 60 officers responded to the Regal River City Marketplace Theater around 8:30 p.m. when an officer working off duty could not control a crowd estimated as high as 750 people.
Police say when the Regal River City Marketplace Theater was rushed by 25-30 people without tickets, an officer working off-duty used pepper spray to turn back the crowd, then called for backup.
Officers began using loud speakers began going through the crowd asking people to disperse.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says it took just over an hour to break up the crowd -- some shouting profanities at police.
There were no reports of serious injuries or gunfire. A safe zone was setup for parents and guardians to reunite with their children.
"Our response was quick and effective," said JSO spokeswoman Lauri-Ellen Smith. "Our job is to keep people safe, first and foremost, obviously and that's what our officers did. They do that through tactical activities through crowd control by sequestering the group and again, keeping these folks safe, determining who's fighting, who's not."
On Thursday, police released the names and booking photos of the two young adults and one juvenile accused of felonies, including resisting arrest with violence.
A ccording to the arrest reports, Tevyn Davis, 19, Jaquade Miller, 18, and Khalil Bradley, 17, not only refused to disburse, but took a "fighting stance" toward police and actively resisted arrest. Miller is accused of swinging at an officer with a closed fist.
The juveniles' identities were withheld because they were only charged with misdemeanors: a boy charged with resisting officer without violence and a girl charged with public nuisance, refusal to disperse and resisting an officer without violence.
One of the teens arrested and his mother both say police force was excessive, and he has injuries to prove it.
"They beat me pretty hard. I have bruises on my ribs," the boy said. "I went to the hospital. I have a bruise on my chest and my ribs and my face, near my right eye."
The 17-year-old high school student says he was just protecting his 14-year-old sister, whom he says police were bullying.
"He pushed her and got into her face, saying 'I want you to, I want you to.' So I turned my back to the police officer and I grabbed my sister and said, 'Let's go.' And He picked me up, put me on the ground and put me in handcuffs. And they were hitting me and beating me."
The boy and his mother say they will fight the charges against him.
We spoke with a few families over the phone. Some said they thought excessive force was used and the teens were wrongly arrested. But the mother of one boy said she believes police responded appropriately, and even though they arrested her son, she believes they treated him fairly.
Jacksonville police won't comment on the specifics of what happened, saying it's an ongoing investigation, but they did ask for a copy of the video Channel 4 recorded at the scene.
At first appearances before a judge, Miller and Davis were granted bonds and were released into the custody of their parents on special conditions. Davis' family said he had enlisted in the Army and is about to leave for basic training.
Back to business as usual
River City Marketplace was open on normal business hours Thursday, and on one of the busiest days for returns at stores, many people who were shopping had the images of Wednesday night's brawl in their mind.
Security was higher than usual, with JSO officers parked on multiple corners in patrol cars and others in golf carts driving around.
A spokesman for the ownership group said heightened security would likely continue for the next few days.
Ramco Gershenson Properties Trust, the company that owns the River City Marketplace, issued this statement:
"This was an unfortunate incident, but a very isolated incident. While we have never had any security issues, our priority is the safety of our shoppers. We will do anything in our power to make this the best, safest shopping experience for all of our shoppers."
Regal Entertainment, which owns the movie theater, did not return calls for comment.
Most of the people shopping seem all that worried, but some questioned why security isn't tighter. Some referenced other outdoor shopping centers around town saying that security officers are always visible on either Segways, bikes, in cars, or in security towers. They say that isn't the case here.
"It could be a little better to be honest," Roy Reynolds Jr.
But others had no problem with the level of security at the mall.
"I'm not worried about it at all," said Derek James. "I always feel safe when I come out here to shop. I usually see a lot of police cars here. People in the stores always seem to be on top of it."
Owners of some of the stores around the movie theater where this fight happened say that they have only had a few concerns with security, but for the most part, things are kept under control. They say that even last night before the melee, security was pretty good in the area, with a few security officers working in the area when most stores were closed.
With many new stores still opening, many people still think of this as a great place to shop, but say that incidents like this definitely give the River City Marketplace a black eye.
"Last night I heard more people say they may not come back up here. I heard one lady say that this was the second time she came up here and something happened," Reynolds said.
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