ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Police used pepper spray to break up a brawl that broke out at a high school football game Thursday night in St. Paul.
Authorities say the fight began during the fourth quarter of Como Park High School's homecoming game against rival Central High at James Griffin Stadium, located next to Central. At least 50 spectators were involved by the time police and school officials took control of the situation.
As a result Central High's own homecoming game October 14th against Harding High has been rescheduled for daylight hours. It's now set to begin at 4:00 p.m. at Griffin, from its original 7:30 p.m. start time.
Witnesses told KARE the fight began in the stands on the Como Park side of the stadium, but that people on the Central side jumped the fence and ran across the playing field to join in the fray.
"I saw a bunch of people running over to the other side yelling," Central senior Shaquille Butler told KARE. "I was watching the whole time because I knew they were going to fight. I saw one kid get hit. It was dangerous. So I stayed my distance."
Butler and others said the instigators didn't appear to be current students at Central or at Como, but were possibly former students or visitors from other parts of the city.
"I saw dudes running in the middle of the field while the game was going on," said fellow Central senior Temprest Myers. "They started fighting and then everybody jumped in. It was like a big riot."
Several witnesses said the action was beyond the endzone, and outside the stadium. It appeared to them that action on the gridiron paused only briefly. Central went on to defeat Como Park 31-23, according to Steven MacDonald Froemming's blog post.
Police say the action spilled into the neighborhood, when some of the combatants rushed a BP service station at Lexington Avenue and Interstate 94 and assaulted the manager. A crowd of young men could be seen on the store's surveillance camera run through the parking lot and into the store grabbing items off the shelves.
In a written statement, school district communications director Leslie Sandberg said, "The District and the schools involved are cooperating with the investigation and will take appropriate action once the investigation is completed."
She continued, "Saint Paul Public Schools is committed to maintaining a respectful learning and work environment and this commitment extends to any after school activities."
Students leaving Central Friday afternoon said they had been told their own homecoming game, set for Oct. 14th at Griffin, would be moved to 4:00 in the afternoon to minimize the chances of another huge scuffle. The homecoming dance is still scheduled for 7:30 p.m. the following night.
Some told KARE 11 a daylight game would minimize the odds of a fight because not as many outsiders, or non-students, would be able to attend the game or drink alcohol ahead of time. Other students thought prospective rumblers would be determined to fight regardless of time of day.
In the Minneapolis Public Schools some varsity games have afternoon start times, but a district spokesperson said that's more a function of logistics because not stadiums have lights.
"North, South and Southwest do not have stadium lights, so we have a lot of afternoon games," Emily Lowther of the MPS communications office told KARE.
"Schools can also adjust their schedules based on their
own preferences. Edison's recent homecoming game was held at 5 p.m. because the school's homecoming dance followed the game. When Henry plays North, the game is held in the afternoon for convenience since both schools are in the same area."
St. Paul police fielded a call at 9 p.m. from off-duty officers working the security detail at the game. They said a large fight had started inside the stadium, and officers on the scene needed backup to control the crowd.
The fight quickly spread outside the stadium, situated between the North Lexington Parkway school and I-94. But as soon as more police arrived in squad cars, the brawlers quickly dispersed.
A large group was seen as far as Oxford Street and University Avenue, but St. Paul police noted that many of the youths hopped on buses to get away.
With information from The St. Paul Pioneer Press/http://www.twincities.com/ci_16222456
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