Brawl overblown? Teen disputes Fashion Square claims
Two of the bolder allegations in the recent brawl-at-the-mall that temporarily shut down Charlottesville Fashion Square were that brawlers arrived ready to rumble and traveled for that purpose via public transportation. However, a schoolmate of some of the alleged fighters claims the role played by public transportation–- as well as the intentions of the participants–- have been overstated.
"It was never a coordinated show of force," says Federico D. Venegas, a 16-year-old sophomore at Charlottesville High School, who says he found no evidence of any premeditation. Instead, Venegas contends that what happened around 7:30pm on March 5 was more like the fighting of yesteryear.
"A couple of kids got mad at another couple of kids," says Venegas. "Someone says, 'I have a beef with you,' and somebody says, 'Let's take it outside.' And everybody followed them out."
Indeed, the students did take it outside, but Venegas also finds the portrayals of 100 people fighting, such as that asserted by NBC29, overblown. Venegas contends that the whole altercation–- including spectators–- probably numbered 30 to 40, a range close to the 30 to 50 cited by Albemarle County Police Corporal Ken Richardson.
Within a day of the incident, Mall management released a statement claiming that students arrived via public transportation, and mall manager Karen Weiner claimed in a Daily Progress interview that the whole thing was pre-planned on unnamed social networking sites. Citing an ongoing police investigation, Weiner declined to respond to the debunking offered by Venegas.
Venegas, who was present for the incident, says he determined that the involved students hailed from CHS, Monticello High, and Albemarle High. And as for any in-mall commotion, Venegas says that was the result of revved-up students fleeing back inside when a swarm of police cars rolled up outside.
"I go to school with about five of these kids," says Venegas, who says he interviewed them to find out why they fought. The most disturbing thing Venegas says he learned was that a bystander, a man getting out of his car, was attacked; and Venegas asked a classmate why.
"I don't know," the pugilistic classmate allegedly replied, offering a cryptic, "There can't be no reasons no more."
As for the public transportation, Venegas believes that the fare-free cards that Charlottesville Transit Services offers CHS students probably helped about a third of the CHS students reach the mall–- with the rest carpooling there.
"It's not some great migration," says Venegas. "They just find a way to meet people."
So he finds the image of a busload of thugs piling into a CTS bus–- something that might have been inferred from the mall management allegations–- a little far-fetched. "Maybe five, maybe 10, or even 15 at once," says Venegas, "but nowhere near the capacity of the bus."
Police have not announced any arrests stemming from the incident; and Albemarle Sergeant Linda Jenkins, recently assigned to investigate, was not available by posting time.