MINNEAPOLIS - Minneapolis Police scrambled to South High School early Thursday afternoon to break up a large fight that ended with at least five people being taken to the hospital.
Police spokesman William Palmer says a scuffle broke out in the commons area that makes up the school's lunch room around 11:45 a.m. Tensions simmered until a much larger brawl erupted around 12:45 p.m. during the third lunch hour. Palmer said the altercation began with a food fight, escalated to a full scale melee, lasted 15 minutes and involved as many as 300 students.
Two police liaison officers and 20 to 25 staff members tried to break up the melee but it was too much for them to handle.
Backup was called in and dozens of police officers responded. Witnesses say they approached the scene with guns drawn, and ordered the students to disperse. When they refused and began throwing objects at the officers, mace was used to break up the melee. Palmer said that no mace was sprayed directly on students, just in the air above them to force them to disperse.
At this point no charges have been filed but police say students involved could eventually be charged with assault, riot, or a handful of other crimes.
HCMC spokesperson Robert Ball says emergency crews responded to the scene and at least five people were taken away on stretchers. At least another 15 were treated at the scene, mostly for inhaling mace.
Palmer told reporters that one staff member was hit in the head by an item thrown by a student.
South High School issued a statement on the school's website around 2 p.m. It reads:
"South High School on February 14 was placed on a precautionary code yellow lockdown due to a food fight that escalated into a physical fight.
The incident took place during third period lunch. It began at approximately 12:45 p.m. and lasted 15 minutes. Staff members responded immediately to the incident and followed proper security procedures. The school resource officer and Minneapolis police responded to the matter.
Instruction continued as usual during the code yellow lockdown, but students remained in their classrooms during class periods. South will remain on a code yellow until further notice.
Maintaining a safe environment for our students is a top priority. Fighting is not tolerated at school or on school property. We are committed to following the MPS discipline policy in instances of fighting."
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