Organized fights probed
SHAMOKIN - Videos of pre-arranged fist fights involving juveniles - both boys and girls - continue to pop up on YouTube and have grabbed the attention of police, who are investigating the bizarre incidents that often attract small crowds.
Shamokin Cpl. Darwin Tobias III said eight to 10 such fights have occurred during the past two months along Terrace Avenue behind the former skate park on North Rock Street, and the playground at Shamokin and Race streets.
He said the fights, which are videotaped and then uploaded to the Internet, involve male juveniles and female teens attacking each other in front of witnesses. The dates and times of most of the fights are reportedly pre-arranged.
The corporal said he is continuing to conduct interviews, but no charges have been filed.
Punch drops boy
Chief of Police Edward Griffiths said police first learned of the fights last summer, but he said they have become more prevalent in recent months.
One YouTube video that shows up in a Google search of "Shamokin fights" shows a fight videotaped at the playground at Shamokin and Race streets. It does not seem to be pre-arranged in that only one participant is willing, but it is violent and there is a small crowd of onlookers.
The 40-second video, uploaded Feb. 22, starts with a teenage boy walking into the scene taking off his shirt and approaching another boy, who does not seem interested in fighting.
After about 25 seconds of taunting and soft punches to the shoulder by the shirtless boy, he grabs the other boy by the arm and, for a few seconds, by the throat, and begins to push him across the playground. Twenty-nine seconds into the video, he lands a hard right punch to the other boy's head that sends the victim to the ground; laughter and "oohs" are heard from the onlookers. The last 10 seconds of the video show the shirtless boy land six or seven more punches to the other boy's head while he lays on the ground, trying to protect his head; the shirtless boy then stomps once on the victim's ribs as the video ends.
In addition to the person doing the filming, at least six other people are seen during the video, including another young boy who appears to be taking pictures of or videotaping the fight with his cell phone.
Chris Venna, principal at Shamokin Area Middle-High School, has seen that video as the school works with police and students to put a stop to the fights.
"That's the most disturbing one of the videos I've witnessed," Venna said Monday.
He said the other three or four fights he saw on video involved two "willing participants" who apparently agreed to meet at a specific time and place.
He said the school became aware of the prevalence of fights at about the same time police did two or three weeks ago.
"Thankfully, we have parents who will come forward and notify us" about such things, Venna said.
School officials have spoken to students who have participated in or videotaped the fights about the possible criminal consequences, and that it's simply not good conduct to be involved. Venna has even larger concerns.
"My worry is they're going to find somebody unconscious, or someone's going to die," he said. "That's my biggest fear."
The prevalence of fights seems to have subsided with the attention from police and school officials, Venna said, "but we continue to monitor the situation." He was not aware of any recent posts on the Internet.
The school has alerted parents of those known to be involved, Venna said.