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 Briana Honora, who graduated from NFA two years ago and who attended to chaperone her 11th-grade sister at 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. Honora 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.
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.