April 2, 2013

Waterville, Fairfield teens warned by police following graveyard brawl

Video of incident was posted on YouTube, was removed for violating terms of service

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE -- Police this week warned about a dozen Waterville and Fairfield students for disorderly conduct and criminal trespass after fighting in a local cemetery.

click image to enlarge

A video posted on YouTube recently showed Lawrence and Waterville students fighting in Waterville's St. Francis Cemetary, according to police. The video was removed by YouTube for violating the website's terms of service.

Contributed photo

Deputy police Chief Charles Rumsey said Tuesday that the students, ages 15-17 and mostly from Waterville Senior High School and Lawrence High School, planned the fight.

It occurred late Friday afternoon or early evening at St. Francis Cemetery off Grove Street, he said.

The fight was prompted by a dispute that started between a Waterville student and a Lawrence student on a social media website, possibly Facebook, and then friends of those students got involved, Rumsey said.

He said several junior high school students were present at the fight and one filmed it as well as posted it online on YouTube. The video shows students on a grassy area near gravestones squaring off in twos and punching and tackling each other.

YouTube has removed the video, stating that it violated their terms of service.

"Shane -- punch him, punch him," a voice behind the camera says. "Hey, Shane -- elbow."

Waterville school resource officer Alan Main is investigating the case and spoke with the cemetery sexton, according to Rumsey.

"It did not appear any damage had been done to any of the headstones and gravestones," Rumsey said.

Main also worked with school officials to identify the students, who apparently were willing participants in the fight, according to Rumsey.

He said Main determined no one was seriously injured.

"No one, obviously, is making a complaint to us of being assaulted; however, they certainly were committing the offense of disorderly conduct for fighting in public," Rumsey said.

The law requires police to warn people for fighting in public, he said, adding that if they go back to the cemetery, they can be criminally charged.

"If we learn that there is some serious criminal activity that was committed during the melee, we certainly could charge someone with a crime," Rumsey said.

Waterville schools Superintendent Eric Haley said three or four students involved in the fight are athletes, and are being disciplined for violating the school's athletic code of conduct by engaging in the fight. Nonathletes will not be disciplined because the fight occurred after school hours and off school property, he said.

The athletes' discipline will occur in the next athletic season and they will have to forego 20 percent of countable games, according to Haley. For example, if a student plays baseball and there are 20 games in a season, the student would be prohibited from playing four of the 20 games, he said.

Fighting, he said, can be very serious.

"Somebody could be killed or permanently injured and it's not anything to be messing around with," he said.

Lawrence-based School Administrative District 49 Superintendent Dean Baker echoed Haley's sentiments, saying students are discouraged from fighting. If school officials find that codes have been violated in this case, students would face consequences, according to Baker.

Meanwhile, like Haley, Rumsey said fighting is dangerous and could cause a concussion, broken bones or worse.

"We very strongly discourage people from doing this and I think it's disrespectful to have something like this take place in a cemetery," he said.

Amy Calder -- 861-9247


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