The trouble started on Christmas night when a group of juveniles decided to rush a movie theater security guard in an attempt to enter the 14-screen complex without tickets, according to Florida Today.
The Regal River City Marketplace Stadium 14 theater in Jacksonville was showing multiple films including “47 Ronin,” “Grudge Match,” “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” and “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas,” Florida Today said, attributing the theater's website.
The security guard — a female off-duty cop, the Florida Times-Union said — pepper sprayed the group trying to get in, locked the theater doors, and called for backup, according to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lauri-Ellen Smith, adding that three off-duty officers were on working at the theater.
While a crowd of teens initially fled the area, about 8:30 p.m. "what can only be described as a melee” involving 600 erupted in the parking lot, Smith said, with participants “fighting, disrupting, jumping on cars," the Times-Union reported. The crowd appeared to consist mostly of unsupervised juveniles and young adults who weren't theater patrons, Florida Today added.
About 60 police officers responded to the brawl but took about an hour and a half to break it up, the Times-Union reported. Five teenagers were arrested, officials said.
More from WJXT-TV:
On Thursday, police released the names and booking photos of the two young adults and one juvenile accused of felonies, including resisting arrest with violence.
According to the arrest reports, Tevyn Davis, 19, Jaquade Miller, 18, and Khalil Bradley, 17, not only refused to disburse, but took a "fighting stance" toward police and actively resisted arrest. Miller is accused of swinging at an officer with a closed fist.
The juveniles' identities were withheld because they were only charged with misdemeanors: a boy charged with resisting officer without violence and a girl charged with public nuisance, refusal to disperse and resisting an officer without violence.
“We were inside our movie and people were outside beating each other,” Koby Etheridge, 16, told the Times-Union, calling the people involved in the 600-person brawl “stupid and ignorant.”
“They shouldn’t be out on here Christmas,” he added.
Victims of the fight only suffered minor injuries, according to ABC News. Damage to property was also minimal, and no gunshots were fired.
One of the teens arrested and his mother say police force was excessive based on his injuries. "They beat me pretty hard. I have bruises on my ribs," one 17-year-old boy told WJXT. "I went to the hospital. I have a bruise on my chest and my ribs and my face, near my right eye."
The boy added to WJXT that he was protecting his 14-year-old sister from being bullied by police. "He pushed her and got into her face, saying 'I want you to, I want you to.' So I turned my back to the police officer and I grabbed my sister and said, 'Let's go.' And He picked me up, put me on the ground and put me in handcuffs. And they were hitting me and beating me." The boy and his mother say they will fight the charges against him.
WJXT added that it spoke with other families over the phone; some said excessive force was used and the teens were wrongly arrested. But one mother said police responded appropriately, and even though they arrested her son, they treated him fairly.
Here's a report from WJXT:
(H/T: International Business Times)