Judge in detaining Urbana students: 'Dangerous, out-of-control' situation


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URBANA — A conflict that started Friday between two rival groups of boys at Urbana High School "bled over into Monday" and sparked several fights that caused administrators to lock down the school and dismiss early, the county's top prosecutor told a judge Tuesday.

State's Attorney Julia Rietz asked Judge Heidi Ladd to keep six freshman and sophomore boys who were arrested Monday locked up until they can be tried on a charge of mob action in juvenile court.

Another two youths were arrested Tuesday and expected to be in court Wednesday.

Ladd agreed to the continued detention, with the exception of one teen who was put on home confinement because of medical issues that require him to go to a doctor in Peoria.

That youth may leave his home only for school or doctor's appointments. He may not continue practicing the sports he is involved in, the judge said.

The judge called what happened Monday at UHS a "dangerous, out-of-control" situation and said it was a "matter of immediate and urgent necessity" that the boys remain in the Juvenile Detention Center until hearings set for next Wednesday and Thursday.

Police reported that all was quiet at the school Tuesday. Additional officers were on hand to make sure of that, in the wake of the chaos that started late Monday morning.

Late Tuesday afternoon, police arrested two more boys in connection with the Monday melees and took them to the Juvenile Detention Center.

Parents and custodians for five of the six boys who appeared Tuesday asked for and were granted court-appointed attorneys to represent their boys on the Class 4 felony charge. Only one family had hired their own attorney Tuesday.

Although seven students were arrested Monday, Rietz said one of those was a girl who was trying to get to her backpack while a fight was going on and was not intentionally involved in an altercation. She was not charged.

Also charged with misdemeanor resisting a peace officer was the mother of one of the boys who was arrested. Urbana police Lt. Rich Surles said Adrian Pettis, 35, of Urbana, was arrested when she allegedly refused to comply with police directions. She is free on bond and due back in court April 10.

Rietz filed a single count of mob action against the boys, some of whom have had prior police contacts, alleging "that by use of force and violence ... (they) disturbed the public peace" by fighting at the high school.

Rietz told Ladd that Urbana police officers continue to investigate what happened but was able to lay out some preliminary findings for the judge.

Police from several agencies were called to the school about 11:40 a.m. and learned from staff that there had been multiple fights at different places in the building that caused the school to lock down "due to the volatile environment," Rietz said.

A police review of school surveillance video and cellphone video taken by students, which is continuing, revealed that the main conflict stemmed from an ongoing feud between one group that calls itself "On My Brother" or "OMB" and another nameless group.

On Monday morning, Rietz said, seven members of the On My Brother group appeared to face off with three members of the unnamed group in the hall outside the cafeteria.

Rietz said video showed that one of the unnamed group raised a fist, "and then the fight is on," both in the hallway and in the cafeteria.

An associate principal and a teacher tried to intervene. Another teacher, Gerasimoula Kokkosis, grabbed the arm of one of the boys to break up the brawl and got knocked to the floor, where another teen involved in the fight fell on top of her. She hit her head on a locker and the floor and lost consciousness.

There was no indication that any of the boys had intentionally struck her.

"I don't think anyone knew she was there," Rietz said.

She was treated at an area hospital and released later.

Rietz asked that all of the boys be held, while Assistant Public Defender Abby Causer asked that they be released to their parents or guardians.

One of the six is currently on court supervision for a battery case. None of the others had juvenile adjudications (convictions) but three of them have had prior police contacts and had been referred to the Youth Assessment Center for services at least three times but never followed through.

Urbana police Sgt. Matt Bain said school officials indicated to police that the six boys have been suspended from school.


Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is mschenk@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).