More details of a fray that sent hundreds of panicked teenage partygoers running into the Macon Coliseum parking lot Saturday night emerged Tuesday in a police memo.
Meanwhile, the party’s promoter is citing poor planning by the venue’s managers and Coliseum officials have banned teen parties at the facility.
Andrew Blascovich, spokesman for Mayor Robert Reichert, said the city has frozen parties for young people at the city arena following a fight inside a ballroom party attended by more than 700 teenagers last weekend.
More than 20 Macon police officers responded to the disturbance. A Dry Branch man was arrested, a woman was hospitalized and three people at the party were Tased, according to authorities.
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“We’ve previously had the policy of no teen parties for several years. Due to a number of requests, we allowed one to take place during the Christmas holiday. That party went off without a problem,” Blascovich said Tuesday. “Because of the events Saturday, we’ve gone back to our previous way of doing things.”
Coliseum director Regina McDuffie did not return multiple calls seeking comment for this story.
Three police officers were working off-duty at the party at about 11 p.m. Saturday when the crowd surpassed the capacity of the room and officers started preventing additional people from going in, according to a police report.
Capt. Lionel Doss, one of the officers, issued a memo to McDuffie and Chief Mike Burns Sunday outlining several concerns before the fight erupted. The Telegraph obtained a copy of the memo Tuesday.
Doss writes that officers began the security detail at about 7:30 p.m. with information about a possible “girl’s gang fight” at the Coliseum.
“I had received information from my superiors about a possible incident at this location. So we assumed that the party probably was an excuse for everybody to get together. I called the 1st Precinct sergeant to arrange for patrols in the parking lot in between their regular duties,” Doss told The Telegraph.
Doss writes he was worried by the hours of the party.
“I spoke with the event coordinator and he told me that the room was contracted until 1 a.m. I immediately expressed my concerns since there is a curfew of 12 midnight for everyone 16 years and younger. ... He said that he would check IDs on everyone and mark those under 17 differently than the others and stop the music at midnight to have them to leave and go home.”
Nearly two hours into the party, Doss writes, he sensed that it was getting out of control. The DJ was letting people up on the stage. People were flashing gang signs.
“I went back out and told (the event coordinator) that he was inviting trouble.”
Soon, he writes, the crowd had reached more than 1,000 people in a room where fire safety restrictions allow for roughly 900.
Party organizers, however, say the crowd only reached approximately 700 people.
“They were not giving out tickets. We had to estimate the size of the crowd,” Doss said. “Because I work large events there on a regular basis, when I realized we had passed capacity I began to stop letting people in.”
Doss writes that he contacted the police dispatch center to summon a fire marshal but learned one had not been scheduled for the party.
Then Doss summoned McDuffie to the party.
“While I was talking to (her) about the situation outside the ballroom, someone shouted that there was a fight on the inside ... I had to step to the side of the entrance to avoid being run over by the crowd fleeing.”
Chase Russell, the freshman at Fort Valley State University who threw Saturday’s party, said he was surprised when only three officers arrived to provide the security.
Russell, a young entrepreneur who hosts parties for midstate teens, said the terms of his contract with the Coliseum prevented him from bringing in security but stated a minimum of three officers would be assigned.
Russell rented the facility for five hours and was charging 15- to 18-year-olds $5 to come inside.
“Usually I’ll have 12 to 15 officers at an event like that where there are 500 to 800 people,” said the Fort Valley State biology major and Presidential Scholar. “The party couldn’t be controlled because it only had three police officers. The Centreplex (Coliseum) controls security.”
Russell said he felt Coliseum staff who worked the party did not know how to direct the officers.
“I was very upset with the staff that they provided because of the way that the officers were not inside of the ballroom the entire time. They kept coming in and out of the room,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I had any control over the staffing because they weren’t my staff.”
Doss said the officers had to check on the parking lot, the money station and the ballroom, and could not remain stationary.
“Within 60 seconds a fight broke out on the dance floor between a group of male teens and then everyone just began to panic,” Russell said.
He said he regrets that his first teen party in Macon ended so poorly.
“When I provide the staff, I make sure that I provide an atmosphere where kids can be safe and the crowd can be controlled. I want to apologize to all the parents of all of the kids there,” he said.“I tried to give them an opportunity to dance and have fun and socialize with their friends.”
To contact writer Ashley Tusan Joyner, call 744-4347.
To contact writer Ashley Tusan Joyner, call 744-4347.