Police, mall security use force to break up fight

Independence MO. Dec. 29, 2007

The mother and grandmother of one of the Kansas City teens involved in a fight Wednesday at Independence Center said Friday they believe officers from the Independence Police Department and a mall security guard are the ones responsible for precipitating the brawl that was reported in the media.

Robin McDonald, the teen's mother and the teen's grandmother, Rhonda McDonald, told The Examiner that although the teen was involved in a one-on-one fight Wednesday evening outside the mall's entrance near Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar restaurant, the teen was hardly a participant in a brawl.

"From what I understand, they keep saying it was a group of 20 kids brawling. It was a one-on-one fight." Rhonda McDonald said.

Independence police officers used Taser guns after a mall security guard used pepper spray to break up the fight, which police officials said involved 20 to 30 teenagers.

Independence Police Chief Fred Mills said he has been briefed, but has yet to see the full reports because he is on vacation.

"There is no dispute that there was a fight, but I don't know what their (the McDonalds) analogies are," Mills said. "I haven't read the reports to know what happened with everyone involved. I'm at the same disadvantage as the mother and the grandmother because I wasn't there."

Independence Center officials, who rejected the description of the fight as a brawl, declined to comment Friday, referring to a statement released earlier. Ryan Oester, director of mall marketing for Simon Property Group, which operates Independence Center, wouldn't comment on whether surveillance video captured the incident. He denied The Examiner's request for of a copy of surveillance video.

"Whenever an incident like this occurs in our community, our primary concern is always for the safety and wellbeing of our shoppers and mall employees," Oester said. "We are committed to providing a safe, quality environment for our shoppers."

Police officials said Thursday two female officers responded to a call from security guards at 6:53 p.m. When the officers arrived and warned the teens to leave or face arrest, officials said, close to 20 teens became unruly, surrounding the officers, who put out a call for assistance.

"They (the teenage girls) were just flailing away at each other," Independence Police spokesperson Tom Gentry said Thursday. "Two of our female officers tried to break it up, but about 20 of the girls' friends surrounded our officers."

Gentry said mall security used pepper spray on the crowd, setting off pandemonium.

"Our officers had to use their Taser guns on at least three of them," Gentry said. "They were literally out of control."

Both Robin and Rhonda McDonald contend the police description is untrue. They gave an account that was relayed to them by close friends of their relative, who witnessed the altercation.

After their family member was accosted by another girl at the mall and sensing it would escalate, the teen informed the four other people she was with - including the group's chaperon, 20-year-old Ronnell D. Love of Kansas City - that it was time to leave. Upon leaving, the McDonalds' relative was assaulted outside by the other teenage female, they said. The McDonalds' relative protected herself, and a fight between the two began.

Love's younger sister, a juvenile, helped mediate the altercation before mall security arrived.

Once security arrived and requested police assistance, someone in a crowd of on-lookers yelled "police," prompting the gathering crowd to disperse, Rhonda McDonald said.

"I don't care if my granddaughter was out there behaving badly or whatever," McDonald said, adding her granddaughter knows unruly behavior is unacceptable to both her and her daughter Robin. "I don't care if they were out there being disrespectful to the police - which they were not. The fact is they are little girls (15 and 18 years old). Nothing justifies what they did to her and that other little girl. Nothing. They (mall security and Independence police) were the brawlers."

Rhonda McDonald said security and police officers used pepper spray on her granddaughter and banged her head against a trash can and used a Taser gun on 18-year-old Chereyl White of Kansas City.

White was charged with with interfering with police. Rhonda McDonald said White was released on a $1,500 bond.

Rhonda McDonald scoffed at the notion her granddaughter was injured during the initial fight, but said she was injured after either the security or police officer grabbed her. McDonald contends the use of pepper spray and a Taser gun was excessive.

"(White) was standing there crying, while her younger brother was holding her," Rhonda McDonald said, adding White weighs close to 97 pounds. "The police officer snatches her out of her brother's arm, throws her to the ground, maces her and Tasered her. Not once, but twice. This was after the fight was over."

Mills said he doubts if an officer within the department would use a Taser gun on someone who was "just standing there."

"I don't understand that at all," Mills said of the McDonalds' assertion. "I must assume there's more to the story."

The fight had no connection with Tuesday's melee at the AMC Independence Commons 20 movie theater, despite such speculation, Rhonda McDonald said.

However, a fight involving the McDonalds' relative at Ward Parkway Shopping Center Tuesday was connected to Wednesday's fight.

Robin McDonald said despite Tuesday's altercation at Ward Parkway, she allowed her daughter to go to Independence Center to shop using the money she received as Christmas gifts. She said she knows and trusts Love enough to know her daughter and the group was with responsible supervision.

"I trust these kids with my life," Robin McDonald said. "I know these kids, I have a relationship with these kids. Because of who (Love) was, I let my daughter go with them to the mall. I can't bar her from everything. She's a teenager."

Rhonda McDonald said both she and her daughter figured the group would steer clear of trouble at Independence Center because of the security factor and police presence at the mall.

"We cannot escape the irony that we thought she would be safe because they have such good security," Rhonda McDonald said. "That's the thing that is slapping us in our face, too. If they are not going to protect her from being assaulted by somebody else and they are going to get in on the assault too, then nobody's really safe. People need to really understand that."

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