By PARADISE AFSHAR and BETH BURGER - Herald Staff Writers
Published: Friday, Sep. 24, 2010
Updated: Friday, Sep. 24, 2010
PALMETTO — The story and video footage of two high school girls brawling in a vacant field, cheered on by dozens of fellow students, made headlines around the nation and the world Thursday.
The mother of one of the girls, 39-year-old April Newcomb, posted a $15,000 bond at 2:30 a.m. Thursday after she was arrested on child abuse charges. She was captured on video encouraging her daughter to fight in the Sept. 17 incident.
The girls squared off in a vacant field near Emerson Point as an estimated 100 other teens watched and yelled in excitement as the two fought over an ex-boyfriend, according to authorities.
National television shows, including “Inside Edition” and “Prime News” on the Headline News channel, played video footage Thursday from the fight. The latter even brought in analysts to discuss the story, devoting about 10 minutes to the topic.
“To cheer her on is mindboggling,” one of the “Prime News” analysts said of Newcomb. “Clearly this parent has been desensitized to interpersonal violence.”
After the Herald’s report Thursday, national news websites picked up the story, including cbsnews.com, thesmokinggun.com and insideedition.com.
Even a news website in India, bollypatrika.com, ran a shortened version of the story.
The case remains under investigation, according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Dave Bristow.
“Hopefully everyone has learned a lesson here and we won’t have to worry about this again,” he said, referencing Newcomb’s arrest. “You would think you wouldn’t have a situation like this. It’s one thing to have students standing around and not do anything. It’s another thing to have a parent stand there. ... We wanted to send a message locally.”
‘This is not good’
Deputies were originally tipped off about the fight by a 56-year-old Palmetto woman who contacted authorities after she noticed cars lining both sides of 17th Street West with teens rushing in a frenzy toward the action.
“I could see heads,” said the woman, who asked the Herald to remain anonymous for fear of harassment. “What I told them was, ‘This is not good. They aren’t going fishing. You need to get someone out here.’ ”
Later on Sept. 17, deputies received three YouTube videos of the fight. One of the videos was taken off the site Wednesday; another taken down Thursday.
In the videos, Newcomb is seen arriving with her daughter at the fight, then minutes later seen shouting words of encouragement to her. A throng of students, meanwhile, is seen circled around the fight, cheering on the girls. Dozens can be seen capturing the action on cellphone cameras.
“When I saw the video, I was appalled,” the Palmetto woman said. “You don’t see one person coming forward to break that fight up. Realistically, any one of those kids could have broke that fight up. ... If it would have been my child, I would have done something. As a parent, you have a responsibility to protect that child regardless if they are making the right decision or not.”
The other mother comes on the scene toward the end of the five-minute brawl, the videos show. The two women are then seen talking as their daughters continue to pound away on the ground behind them.
Newcomb told the sheriff’s office that she knew of the fight and attended to ensure it did not get out of hand. She also went to make sure no one got too hurt and that her daughter did not get hit in the back of the head, because she had a skull fracture from an incident two years ago.
Newcomb did not return interview requests Thursday.
The mother of the other girl has not been charged. She declined to comment at her residence Thursday night.
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