EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 21, 2013

Basketbrawl: 200 in melee after Methuen-Haverhill game

7 arrested after fans exchange taunts, punches

By Mike LaBella
mlabella@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — Police said they were ready and waiting for it to happen, and it did.

A brawl involving some 200 Haverhill and Methuen High students broke out Tuesday night following a basketball game, resulting in seven arrests. Police were prepared for some sort of confrontation after a fight broke out between students from both schools at a Saturday hockey game, which was then followed by days of taunting on Twitter.

To discourage any fighting, Methuen High students were allowed to leave the basketball game first and six extra police officers were stationed in Haverhill High’s front parking lot when the game let out about 9 p.m. The officers saw students scuffling in the parking lot behind the school and stepped into break it up, said Haverhill Police Lt. Robert Pistone.

“The officer reported that about 200 kids were out of control,” Pistone said. “Several groups were fighting throughout the crowd.”

According to a police report, the officers were outnumbered, which left them at a “severe disadvantage.” Officers called for back-up and tried using verbal commands to disperse the group, the report said. The group begin to break up only after officers began arresting “the most aggressive” students, Pistone said.

“Then we called the state police for mutual aid,” Pistone said. “Even though things were brought under control, we still needed to have personnel available to deal with other situations throughout the city.”

Pistone said that by having officers on the scene, the situation was brought under control quickly and without anyone suffering serious injury. Of those arrested, five are from Methuen and two are from Haverhill. Three of the seven are juveniles.

Pistone said the school resource officer learned of Saturday’s altercation between Methuen and Haverhill students at the Valley Forum rink and the decision was made to send extra officers to Tuesday’s basketball game. There were no arrests in Saturday’s fight, but several days of taunting and badmouthing on Twitter followed.

A Haverhill hockey player who said he was not playing Saturday picked fights with Methuen fans and players all weekend. “Hey methuen..see you Tuesday! I will come onto the court and knock out your point guard!” he tweeted Saturday night.

Another hockey player asked a girl Monday morning if she was going to the basketball game the following night. He tweeted: “they’re playing methuen and maybe that girl you tried fighting will go!”

“true !!! I most likely will,” she replied.

Haverhill School Superintendent James Scully was at Tuesday’s game and said he was informed about a few students from Methuen who were determined to cause a problem.

“Normally, we don’t have a police presence at these games as we have not had a problem in three years,” Scully said. “A few of the students arrested were most abusive with their mouths, and in fact one of them, while being arrested gave the police officers a very difficult time. That particular individual, in my opinion, did a tremendous disservice to the athletes of both schools.”

Scully said he was outside during the incident and commended Haverhill police for the “constraint they used, given the abusive manner in which they were treated.”

Scully said any Haverhill student involved in the fight will suffer the consequences as outlined in the student handbook and warned of further disciplinary action.

“We have too many good things going on at Haverhill High, and those involved in activities that are counterproductive to what we’re trying to accomplish in classrooms and on our athletic fields will not be tolerated,” Scully said. “There is no room at Haverhill High School for thugs.”

Methuen School Superintendent Judith Scannell did not respond to a request for comment. However, Scully said he spoke with her and “she’s as disgusted and upset as I am.”

Police said that during the brawl, 18-year-old Drazelle Fernald of Haverhill fought with 17-year-old Marissa Shaw of Methuen, and while Shaw was on the ground, Fernald kicked her in the mouth. Both were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, while Fernald was also charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a shod foot.

Judge Patricia Dowling issued Fernald a 60-day warning at her arraignment on the assault and battery charge, meaning if she gets in trouble with the law while her case is pending, she could be held for up to 60 days without bail. As a condition of her release, Fernald was given an 8 p.m. curfew.

Steven Dileo, 18, and Angel Geigel, 17, both of Methuen, were charged with disorderly conduct. Geigel was also charged with resisting arrest. Police said when they attempted to arrest Geigel, he tried to pull away from them and acted in an “aggressive manner,” forcing them to subdue him.

Court officials said Shaw, Dileo and Geigel were accepted into a Youthful Diversion Program run by Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office.

The program provides first-time offenders the opportunity to receive services in lieu of being prosecuted through the traditional court process.

Two 16-year-old Methuen boys and one 16-year-old Haverhill boy also arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. They were also accepted into Blodgett’s juvenile diversion program, a spokesperson for the office said.