WILLOWICK, Ohio (WJW) — Multiple juveniles were arrested after “hundreds” of teens rioted and wreaked havoc at the St. Mary Magdalene Parish Festival Sunday night.
According to Willowick Police Chief Brian Turner, the fights broke out around 7 p.m. Sunday and quickly escalated out of control.
“I’m actually really sick to my stomach that this happened,” said Chief Turner.
The unruly crowd became so aggressive that every Willowick officer on the road responded as well as police from Eastlake, Willoughby, Willoughby Hills, Wickcliffe and Kirtland.
“It was kind of shocking to see,” said Photographer Tyree Rodgers who was at the event to take pictures for his company J7WMultiMediaLLC, and instead captured video of the melee.
“A lot of commotion, yeah, it was wild,” he said.
The decision was made to close the festival early due to the problems, but they continued with individuals fighting and acting out of control, spilling out into both the business areas along Vine Street and residential areas.
“Chaos, in a word, chaos,” said witness Norm Herrera, “It escalated to pushing shoving all the way up to houses into backyards.”
“A lady gets out of the car and confronts this group and she gets knocked to the ground, then kicked, punched in the head,” said Chief Turner.
Willowick officers deployed a PepperBall gun to assist in crowd dispersal, when all other efforts failed according the chief.
Turner says, the juveniles mocked officers and insulted them vile vulgar terms, and that almost all, if not all of the troublemakers were from outside of Lake County.
Ten juveniles were arrested, and one male taken into custody had a handgun and narcotics on his person.
Although contrary to rumors online, no gunshots were fired, said the chief. But many hearts were broken. The event was supposed to be the 30th annual festival and a celebration of faith and family.
“I’m sad, very sad and disappointed,” said Fr. Steven Breck, Pastor at St. Mary Magdalene. “Your intention is to provide something fun and then tp have an event where people of all ages are being terrorized should not have happened in this community or any community.”
The Diocese of Cleveland also expressed sadness and disappointment over the events and distress that it caused.
“The parish festival is intended to be a family-friendly, uplifting event and we are saddened that the unruly behavior of some caused distress to any of those attending Sunday evening,” said Deacon Jim Armstrong.
As for the future of the festival, that remains uncertain at this time, but if it is brought back next year additional and significant security steps will need to be taken.
“Because this can’t go on,” said Chief Turner, “I’m thoroughly disgusted with it. I know residents of this community are disgusted.”