Whitehall News

Maggard: I'll make July Fourth safer

Scuffle involving 27 people delayed city's fireworks display

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Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard vows measures will be in place at next year's Fourth of July celebration to prevent similar unruliness that prompted the delay of the fireworks show at this year's event, held July 3 at John Bishop Park.

"It won't be tolerated," said Maggard, calling the incident that precipitated the detainment of 17 people and the arrest of 10, some of whom were juveniles, as "ridiculous."

"These were people who came (to Whitehall) looking for trouble and found it," said Maggard, adding that only one of those detained or arrested resides in Whitehall, according to police records.

Maggard said she met with police personnel to get a firm grasp on what transpired at John Bishop Park shortly before 10 p.m., the scheduled start of the city's fireworks show.

As a result of fighting among two groups of juveniles and young men, the dispersing crowd crossed a barrier set up for the fireworks launch, she said.

"There was a stampede after people saw the fighting and the security perimeter was breached," said Maggard, requiring a delay in the start of the fireworks.

The unrest was localized, Maggard said, leaving many in the crowd wondering why the show had been delayed.

Police detained as many as possible involved in the melee and investigated while the fireworks show got underway, Maggard said.

The 10 arrested, ranging in age from 14 to 19, face a variety of charges, including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstructing official business, possession of marijuana, criminal trespassing and carrying a concealed weapon. The latter charge was for possessing a length of chain.

One of the juveniles arrested, a 14-year-old, had been reported missing.

Four officers were treated for minor injuries sustained in the arrests, said Whitehall police Lt. Mark Newcomb.

Newcomb described the injuries as "road rash" while apprehending suspects who were fighting others and resisting arrest. The officers did not miss any duty, Newcomb said.

One of the arrestees also was treated for minor injuries.

Seven days after the incident, Maggard said she does not want the city to have a "knee-jerk reaction" to the incident.

Several years ago, Whitehall changed its fireworks show from the evening of July 4 -- when virtually every other central Ohio suburb launches their fireworks -- to July 3, the same evening as Columbus' Red, White & Boom, in an effort to prevent oversized crowds, city officials said.

While all are invited to attend Whitehall's fireworks, Maggard said she will craft a policy to prevent future unrest and violence.

She said she will meet with Police Chief Richard Zitzke, Fire Chief Preston Moore, Safety Director Chuck Underwood, Service Director Ray Ogden and Parks and Recreation Director Steve Carr to further discuss preventive measures and crowd-control policies and tactics.

Maggard said she will report the findings at a future City Council meeting.

"We will have a policy for a safer July Fourth for our residents and guests," Maggard said.

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