Police investigate “violence and dangerous behavior” at Middletown-Newburgh BB game

Screen cap of students being forced from Middletown High School by authorities during a Friday night basketball game

MIDDLETOWN – A basketball game between Newburgh Free Academy and Middletown High School varsity teams Friday night at Middletown was the scene of chaos when city police said several police agencies were called in “to diffuse violent and dangerous behavior on the part of many individuals inside and outside of the school building,” Middletown Police Chief John Ewanciw wrote in a posting on Saturday morning.

A posting on Facebook by 2018 NFA graduate Briana Honora, the sister of an 11th grade NFA student who attended the event, tells a different story, one in which the author said they were told by Middletown High School security guards at 6 p.m. that the gym was at full capacity even though the game had not started. The writer said students were forced to wait in the hallway and about 30 minutes later, security guards and police officers said they had to wait outside in the 19 degree weather.

(First video is recording if you do not have Facebook. Second video, below the story, is same recording, but directly on Facebook.)

The posting said when students tried to explain it was too cold and they wanted to wait in the hallway, the officers began forcibly pushing them and injuring a few. “One young lady was body slammed in the commotion and left with a severely hurt ankle.”

Honora wrote that “This is not okay. These are still kids. It was freezing outside.”

Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey, meanwhile, posted on Facebook on Saturday that there were two incidents Friday night – the one in the high school lobby and another inside the game after Newburgh defeated Middletown “where things got very physical and people were hurt in that exchange as well.”

He said he has spoken with Newburgh Schools Superintendent Dr. Padilla, Principal Matteo Doddo, and Middletown Mayor Joseph Destefano and will be speaking with Principal Rodriguez, and city council and executive staff “to address this very serious matter.”

Chief Ewanciw said the video showed “only a small portion of the event, which unfolded over more than two hours necessitating the response of multiple police agencies to diffuse violent and dangerous behavior on the part of many of the individuals inside and outside of the school building.”

He said his department is “actively reviewing all aspects of the incident to determine if departmental policies and procedures were appropriately followed, and will work with school officials and our community partners to determine how we can prevent similar occurrences at school events in the future.”

The chief asked for the public’s patience and support, and “caution those who view the video to not base their conclusions on incomplete information.”

Harvey said he will coordinate a meeting next week to review all video footage and “discuss how these violent exchanges can be avoided and handled differently moving forward. If there was wrongdoing on any part that the individuals be held accountable.”

He asked if anyone has video footage from inside the game or from a different perspective regarding the fight or scuffle after the game to send it to his inbox.

Chief Ewanciw said the video showed “only a small portion of the event, which unfolded over more than two hours necessitating the response of multiple police agencies to diffuse violent and dangerous behavior on the part of many of the individuals inside and outside of the school building.”

He said his department is “actively reviewing all aspects of the incident to determine if departmental policies and procedures were appropriately followed, and will work with school officials and our community partners to determine how we can prevent similar occurrences at school events in the future.”

(This is the same video as above, but directly linked to Facebook.)

Students from Newburgh Free Academy tried to attend the Newburgh-Middletown Varsity basketball game at 6pm. At approximately 6pm the security guards at Middletown High school claimed that the gym was already at full capacity even though the varsity game hadn’t even started yet. Students were forced to wait in the hallway. About 30 minutes later security guards as well as police officers said that the students were no longer allowed to wait in the hallway but had to wait outside in the 19 degree weather whether they had a ride home or not. When students tried to explain that it was too cold and they just wanted to wait in the hallway the security guards and police officers began forcibly pushing the students and injuring a few of them. One young lady was body slammed in the commotion and left with a severely hurt ankle. Keep in mind during all of this , while the security guards claimed they were at maximum capacity , they continued to allow certain people into the game. This is not okay. These are still kids. It was freezing outside. Why couldn’t the students remain in the hallway until they had a ride home from Middletown? By the end of night at least 6 more police cars were called as well as 2 state troopers all for less than 25 high school students.

Posted by Briana Honora on Friday, January 17, 2020



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