"...police crews were on scene within three minutes after dispatchers received complaint calls ...but some residents criticized police for what they claimed was a slow response..."
Residents of a North Toledo neighborhood near Woodward High School are accustomed to seeing the occasional fist fight and band of rowdy teenagers.
But the sheer size and spectacle of a Thursday night brawl, said by witnesses to have involved dozens of youths, some wielding sticks and baseball bats, has raised fears and prompted comparisons to the infamous 2005 riots sparked by a planned neo-Nazi rally.(I guess they don't need a reason to riot.
"This was the first time since the riot that I saw anything that crazy," said Cindy Ball, who watched with her husband, Dave Ball, as a melee involving as many as 50 people raged for nearly half an hour in front of their house near the corner of Mulberry and Oakland streets.
"One fight would break up and another chimp fight would start up," Mr. Ball recalled yesterday. "What surprised me was with as many kids that were out there, a gun didn't go off."
Toledo Police responded to several 911 calls about the fight, and witnesses said it finally broke up for good once officers arrived.
Despite the fight's purported size and ferocity, no injuries or arrests were reported. Police said they did not file a report of the incident.
Witnesses said the most vicious fighting happened before officers showed up. Some residents also criticized police for what they claimed was a slow response.
Yet, according to police, crews were on scene within three minutes after dispatchers received complaint calls.
Capt. Leo Eggert, head of communications, said calls about fights are generally prioritized at Level 2, which means police wouldn't respond as quickly as they would to reports of a shooting, stabbing, or someone hurt in a traffic collision.
"It's not by how big the fight is, it's by the threat to the person," Captain Eggert said.
Residents say the fight was plenty big. One resident recorded some of the melee on video. A BCSN video camera in the park for a softball game also captured some of the fighting.
"It looked like a swarm of bees," said one 42-year-old man who lives on Oakland Street, who claimed he saw the entire ordeal but wouldn't give his name for fear of retaliation against his family.
Witnesses said the fight started around 6 p.m. on Mulberry Street near Woodrow Wilson Park and initially involved just two older girls. The confrontation escalated, and one of the girls pulled off the other's hair weave.
"They pushed each other down and were socking each other in the face and cussing at each other," recalled Keyana Marshall, 12, who lives nearby. "[A girl] said, 'Whatcha gonna do now, whatcha gonna do now,' and she just grabbed her face and went boom, boom, boom, and her weave went flying."
The mayhem spread until dozens of people were fighting each other. The 42-year-old recalled how some in the crowd were trying to force a girl out of a car, possibly the same girl who lost her weave.
Mr. Ball said he saw one girl beating the car with a baseball bat. The 42-year-old witness recalled seeing other cars pull up with youths and young adults inside. The mob eventually got at the terrorized girl in the car.
"They dragged her out of the car and across the street and into the park and that's where she got kicked," the 42-year-old resident said. "I imagine they broke her nose if you saw how far her head went after that kick."
Violence spread and soon it was an all-out brawl, with as many as 50 people fighting, witnesses said. Some fought with sticks picked up from the park. And it was more than just teenagers: There were adults in their late 20s or 30s fighting and youths who were junior high-aged at most, according to witnesses.
"There were grown-ups as well as children," one witness said.
LaChelle Carter, a mother whose children witnessed the fight, said she has heard of previous skirmishes in the neighborhood but nothing as large as what apparently occurred Thursday.
"They were telling me how such and such jumped in and such and such jumped in," Ms. Carter said
In interviews yesterday, police officials questioned the validity of the grander claims about the fight.
Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre said he doubts the altercation could have lasted longer than a few minutes, or that the police response took longer than that.
He said no report was written about the incident because there were no arrests, no victims came forward, and the crowd dispersed when authorities arrived.
"In my experience, a fight like that doesn't last for 20 minutes," Chief Navarre said. "There would be serious injuries, and to my knowledge there are no serious injuries."
Police respond to calls about crowds fighting "every single night, multiple times a night, but if we get there and the crowd disperses, no, we don't write a report," the chief added.
The fact the incident was recorded on video by a witness is unusual, the chief said, though he couldn't spot any victim being personally assaulted when he saw the footage on the television news.
"I didn't see any weapons in the video," he said. "I looked at it once. I didn't see anybody injured. I did see a car being damaged, but again, I don't know what was there when officers arrived."
He added later: "Even if there was injury in that video, I still need a victim. Where did the victim go?"
For some residents in the neighborhood, Thursday's incident sparked fears of possibly more violence as the weather grows warmer and the school year ends.
"If this is happening right now, can you imagine what's going to happen this summer if they don't get police here patrolling?" said the 42-year-old Oakland Street homeowner, who worried for the safety of his four children whom he no longer allows to play in the park.
Some witnesses compared Thursday's incident to the October, 2005, riot that resulted from a scheduled march by the National Socialist Movement through a North Toledo neighborhood. In that incident, mobs attacked emergency workers, burned a bar, and looted two convenience stores.
Chief Navarre said the area is already densely patrolled and that Thursday's incident isn't enough to move additional patrols. "Keep in mind when we add patrols to that neighborhood, we are pulling resources from another," the chief said.
Toledo Public Schools Superintendent John Foley said he knew of no TPS students involved in the incident.
"It certainly is always a concern when we see fighting going on, and we want to make sure that things that happen in the neighborhood don't carry in to school," Mr. Foley said.
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