Shamokin police bust 'Goon Squad'
SHAMOKIN - Five teen members of a group known as the "Goon Squad" were charged Thursday in connection with the assault of an 18-year-old Shamokin man Sunday.
Ryan Forte, 18, of 18 S. Market St., Apt. 1, who police claim is the group leader, was rousted out of bed in his apartment shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday and taken into custody by Cpl. Jarrod Scandle and Patrolmen Scott Weaver and Raymond Siko II.
Police escorted Forte to his 10:15 a.m. arraignment before Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III on felonies of aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and riot, and misdemeanors of simple assault and disorderly conduct.
Forte, Gage Cossari, 16, and Chad Lytle, 17, are accused of assaulting Keith "KC" Long at 12:43 p.m. in front of the Knights of Columbus Building, 400 E. Independence St. Long suffered a broken nose, a cut on his lower lip that required five stitches, four damaged teeth, broken braces and severe facial swelling that required emergency room treatment at Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital and follow-up care by an orthodontist.
Police said the "Goon Squad" has been involved in fights, vandalism and intimidation during the past two months in the city.
Northumberland County Deputy Chief Juvenile Probation Officer William Rossnock said Lytle was picked up by authorities Monday and detained in a juvenile facility in Bellefonte because of the seriousness of the charges and for his own safety and the safety of the community.
Lytle, who remains in juvenile custody, was charged with the same offenses as Forte. Cossari was charged with aggravated assault, riot, simple assault and disorderly conduct charges.
Seth Lytle, 15, and Kyle Lytle, 14, both of Shamokin, were charged with riot and disorderly conduct.
The three Lytle teens, who are brothers, and Cossari were charged through juvenile petitions.
All the charges were filed by Patrolman William Miner.
Forte's arms and legs were in shackles and he was wearing a black hat backwards and pajama bottoms at the arraignment, which was also attended by Forte's two friends, Linda Depena, 35, and Jess Day, 20. All three disputed the charges and claimed the defendant was only defending himself in what they called a fair fight with Long.
A man who preferred not to identify himself took offense with Gembic committing Forte to Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury in lieu of $100,000 cash bail.
"I think it's sending the wrong message when an adult standing up for himself against a bully is committed to prison," he said.
Forte, who moved from Puerto Rico to Shamokin six months ago, told Gembic, "To be honest with you, I wasn't looking for any trouble. I didn't run. I saw him (Long) bullying another person and he took a swing at me first, sir. I think I have a right to defend myself."
The defendant claimed Long and "football jocks" were picking on the Lytle brothers.
Forte requested Gembic to release him on ROR (released on own recognizance) bail, to which the judge replied, "There's no possible way for ROR bail."
After the defendant told the judge he was never in trouble before and had family living in the area, Gembic stated, "The kid with the broken nose and busted teeth has family living in the area, too."
Depena said Forte is a good friend who baby sits her three children, ages 2, 8 and 11.
She said she witnessed the incident involving Forte and Long.
"I was walking with my three kids at Shamokin and Independence streets when I saw KC Long arguing with Chad Lytle. Ryan, who was with us, asked Chad if everything was good. Long said he didn't want to fight Lytle because Chad was only 17. Long then asked Ryan how old he was and if he was willing to fight. Ryan said yes and whipped his butt. It was one-on-one. There was no gang or group involved."
Day also said Forte has never been in any trouble and was just standing up for himself. She called Long a "bully" who weighs much more and is taller than Forte.
While Forte and his friends claimed it was a fair fight rather than an assault, police painted a much different picture.
"This group has been bullying people for two months," said Chief of Police Edward Griffiths. "They are a bunch of wannabees. We won't tolerate this type of behavior and will continue to crack down on assaults and other criminal activity in an effort to clean up the town."
He added, "You heard of the Ghostbusters. Well, we are the 'Goon Squad Busters.'"
While being transported to the county jail by Griffiths and Siko, Forte said he is a brother of Naheem J. Reams, 17, who was shot by Sunbury police at the conclusion of a June 5 high-speed chase during which Reams allegedly attempted to run over a city police officer.
Reams, formerly of Shamokin, also is incarcerated at the county prison.
Passerby calls police
According to a criminal complaint, police were dispatched to Independence and Rock streets after receiving a call from Timothy Elliott, who was driving by and witnessed the incident before stopping his vehicle and yelling at the group to stop beating Long.
Officers later found Long in the Sons of Italy at the corner of Shamokin and Commerce streets, which is about a block away from where the assault occurred.
Long told police he had called his mother and was afraid to leave the establishment for fear of being assaulted again.
Police said Long was bleeding from the nose and mouth area and had trouble speaking. His mother, Jen Aston, then drove Long to Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community for treatment.
Long identified Forte, the three Lytle brothers and Cossari as the people who assaulted him.
Police spoke with Tammy Foulds, mother of the Lytle brothers, who was in a car on Water Street with her sons, her husband, Paul, Forte and Cossari. Tammy Foulds claimed Chad Lytle was home all day and that police are always picking on her kids, police said.
Chad Lytle said, "That kid is always picking on me at school." When police asked him how he knew the victim if police didn't identify him, Lytle put his head down and said nothing.
Started on Lincoln Street
After being released from the hospital, Long came to the police station for an interview.
Long told police he was walking alone on Lincoln Street when he observed Chad Lytle and several other people near the intersection with Eighth Street.
When he walked by Lytle, Long said Lytle ran to him and punched him in the face before running into the street. Long then yelled at Lytle and felt the group was going to assault him so he hurried away toward Independence Street. He said the group caught up to him at the Knights of Columbus building.
In addition to Forte, the Lytle brothers and Cossari, Long identified others in the group as Jess Day, Linda Depena and three children.
The victim said the group shouted, harassed and threatened to beat him.
He recalled Forte walking up to him and asking, "Do you want to throw down, cause I'm 18?" Long said, "No," and continued walking away before being struck in the back of the head, causing him to fall forward.
Long said he turned and saw Forte swing at him again. Long ducked and grabbed Forte's leg, causing both men to fall on the ground.
Long said Chad Lytle, Cossari and Forte began to punch and knee him in the head. He said Forte delivered a knee directly to his face.
Long said his attackers stopped the assault after Elliott yelled at them and told them he called the police.
Long told police Cossari picked up his backpack and began looking through it before throwing it at the victim.
The group then ran away, according to Long.
'Locked me up'
During an interview with police the next day, Paul Foulds, who is the stepfather of the Lytle brothers, told police he was informed that Long and Chad Lytle were going to fight one-on-one. He said his stepson did not want to fight and that Forte was just sticking up for Lytle when he beat Long.
Upon going to Forte's apartment to interview him about the assault, Miner said he overheard Forte talking about the fight. Miner said Forte stated, "If there were cameras, the cops would have already locked me up."
Miner said he then knocked on the apartment door, which prompted Forte to run into a back room.
Miner said Depena and Day were in the apartment and claimed it was a fair fight that Long lost. He said Depena and Day both claimed Forte wasn't in the apartment and lied several more times before going to the back room to get Forte.
Forte told police he was sticking up for Chad Lytle and Long swung at him first. After Long tried to punch him, Forte said he defended himself. When Miner told Forte about Long's injuries, Miner said Forte began to laugh and clap his hands.
When interviewed by Miner on Monday, Chad Lytle said he was walking with his friends when Long started taunting him to fight. He then claimed Long charged him before he blacked out. Lytle said he didn't know if he hit Long or not. Upon walking near the Knights of Columbus, he said Long taunted him again before charging at Forte. Lytle said Forte and Long then started to fight.