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Fight at Hickman leads to further investigation

Friday, October 17, 2008 | 8:41 p.m. CDT; updated 11:23 a.m. CST, Monday, November 17, 2008

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Police Department's Professional Standards Unit is investigating a fight that occurred at Hickman High School on Wednesday, according to a news release sent Friday evening.

Hickman Resource Officer Mark Brotemarkle is under investigation by the Columbia Police Department with cooperation from Columbia Public Schools after a fight that occurred around noon Wednesday in the old main lobby.

Brotemarkle is being investigated for his involvement in the disturbance.

The incident led to two student arrests. Until the investigation is complete, Brotemarkle will not be at Hickman, Principal Mike Jeffers said. The decision to remove Brotemarkle from the position was made by the Columbia Police Department.

"It's difficult to ask for calm and patience when it appears that conclusions are so easy to come to based on seconds of video," Capt. Tom Dresner said in the news release.

"He (Officer Mark Brotemarkle) has the support of the staff, and has on many occasions prevented small problems from becoming big ones...I can assure you that a thorough and impartial investigation will be conducted," said Dresner in the release.

The police department could not be reached for further comment.

The Missourian received a phone call Thursday night that a video of the fight had been posted on YouTube. The video has since been removed, but the 15-year-old sophomore who shot and posted the video did not remove it herself.

"I was told by my friends that they couldn't find it. I didn't take it down myself," the girl said. The girl's mother asked that her daughter remain anonymous, afraid for her daughter's safety at school.

Doug Mirts, Hickman athletic and activities director, and Brotemarkle were unaware of the video until asked about it this morning. Jeffers said concerns about the police behavior were brought to him by parents.

On Thursday, police began an investigation into the fight. The Columbia Police Department told Jeffers the investigation would continue on Friday, according to Jeffers. Brotemarkle was at Hickman on Friday morning around 9:30.

Hickman staff were notified through an intranet e-mail about the investigation and the video, Jeffers said.

The student who recorded the video said she started recording because that is what others have previously done during fights.

"Because when people fight you naturally want to take pictures. I just happened to have my camera and started recording," the girl said, adding that the fight began after the two girls returned from lunch.

The girls began arguing, and one said she wanted to fight. The other swung and missed, and the first girl then hit the other twice.

The cause of the fight has not been revealed, but it is rumored to be related to a longtime dispute between the two students that has lasted more than a year, said Ray Magruder, founder of the Rising Star Sports Association and a mentor to one of the girls shown in the video, Diamond Thrower.

Thrower, a sophomore, along with school staff members and police, stepped in to try to break up the fight. At that point, the student who posted the video began recording the incident.

Two officers, Sgt. Alan Mitchell and Brotemarkle, responded. Assistant Principal Denise Herndon also responded. Officer Shelly Johnson was on the east side of the building and responded after the fight broke out, Brotemarkle said.

Typically, there are two resource officers at Hickman. There is an additional officer during lunch because students have off-campus lunch and it is a high-traffic time.

In the video, Diamond Thrower, the student in the yellow shirt, was thrown to the ground and handcuffed. Thrower had been trying to mediate the fight and was not personally involved, Magruder said.

Magruder also said Thrower had been taken to the hospital for neck and back problems Wednesday night. She did not attend school Thursday or Friday due to continued pain, Magruder said.

"She was vigorously attacked," Magruder said. "She was the first one to be thrown and handcuffed. She's a good kid and was only trying to stop the argument."

Demetria Stephens, a Hickman parent, was checking her daughter into school shortly after the fight occurred. Stephens said she saw Brotemarkle push a girl down the hallway.

According to Stephens, the girl was telling Brotemarkle to "stop putting your hands on me." The girl was also on a cell phone with her mom crying, saying, "Please come and get me. I don't want to be here." 

Stephens also said her daughter had been questioned about her involvement in the fight by Brotemarkle, even though her daughter was not present at the time of the fight.  

Stephens spoke with Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent for secondary education, and had a meeting Thursday with Jeffers and Preston Bass, coordinator of safety and security for Hickman. She filed a complaint with internal affairs at the school district Thursday morning.

In addition to concerns about Brotemarkle's aggressive behavior, Stephens said other parents are also concerned he targets African-American students. 

"I stand on that and I believe that. Others may not feel that way, but I feel that way," Stephens said. 

Stephens is also collecting signatures for a petition. As of 5 p.m. Friday she had 43 parent and student signatures.

Stephens said the fight on Wednesday was not the first time she heard of problems. She has personally had incidents where Brotemarkle was three to four inches away from her face. 

"I felt threatened by him. He spoke in a very firm voice when it wasn't necessary. If I felt threatened, I can only image how the students feel," Stephens said.

Stephens also said other parents and students had told her of more experiences with Brotemarkle. She has previously filed police reports but has not been contacted about any action that was taken.

"The accountability is not there in the police department, but I believe it can be," Magruder said.

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Comments

Brent R October 18, 2008 | 2:55 a.m.

No wonder nobody wants to be a teacher anymore or have anything to do with public schools. Fights are not like they used to be!! They used to be with fists...now they end with weapons drawn. As an administrator, educator, or school resource officer you cannot let it escalate whatsoever. If you come across an argument that has grown physical, you make EVERY effort to put as much seperation as possible. That officer did not start the fight...and he may have saved Diamond's life, but she will never be man enough to say it to him. What if he stood to the side and one of the girls pulled a knife and stabbed another...then we would be reading an article about an officer who stood by and watched someone die rather than throw a girl out of harms way...yeah I said it! It was out of harms way...it was not to break her back or her neck or whatever she is claiming...just be glad Diamond you are not suffering from a stab wound!!!

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 18, 2008 | 5:02 a.m.

What is all the crying by these parents and children? What about that poor adult lady who was slammed to the ground as well in the video was she a teacher or? Is she ok because she went down real hard.
These parents and children have no reason to cry or complain one bit as if they raised their children to act not like idiots and gang banging wannabee thugs in public then they might actually have a point.
Then they are crying against racism as well? Oh nice trump card to pull out when you can see in the video it is the African American children right in the middle of it all. The racism card is a total failure on their part. Even the one girl crying to mommy on her cell phone is a joke!
The points are that it is obvious the parents of these children involved in any way shape or form in this problem and all on going problems at Hickman High are obviously failing at the art of parenting their children or we would not be seeing so many problems.
It is the parents responsibility from the time those children are born until they leave the house to go out onto their own into the world to raise,nurture and guide those children in a proper upbringing in life to ensure those children have the proper tools to be responsible citizens not to teach their children or allow them to become gang banging little wanna be thugs on the streets or in our schools.
Hickman High School is not some off beat form of the "Sparta Scenario" by far nor should be and congratulations to the Columbia Police Department personnel for being there on the job and taking that situation in control,hand cuffing and planting those responsible on their butts on the floor and doing what had to be done. This is outrageous though that they had to go to these extremes in a educational institution in our modern day and age. As the last poster so pointed out it could have been a knife fight or a gun fight or a razor blade fight or who knows and then what? Teachers should not have to go to their jobs they love to do in fear of these types of things. Period.
Those kids are also lucky the police did not deploy pepper spray as well. Then they would have something to cry over. So the kids got roughed up well what were they themselves doing at that moment? Dancing with the stars or some B.S.?
The final point is this all comes back to the responsibility of the parents in raising their children properly.

(Report Comment)
Jarrod Turner October 18, 2008 | 9:48 a.m.

Maybe there was some misconduct but to pull the racial card seems like complete ignorance. I'm sure right as he threw the girls to the ground he had to make a quick decision about wether to do it or not because they we're black..?!

(Report Comment)
Danielle Boenisch October 18, 2008 | 10:53 a.m.

The accusation that Officer Brotemarkle targets African American students is about the overall treatment throughout several years. It is not necessarily about the fight that occurred on Wednesday.

-Danielle Boenisch

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 18, 2008 | 10:53 a.m.

The officer on scene was clearly in the middle of a crowd that if they wanted to could have even taken him down with no problems.

The officer took control as fast as he could not only to ensure his own safety but that of all of those children and teachers as well. Any officer in that situation might have done the same exact thing or like it to control the situation.

Read my post above and tell me and all other readers that it is any way wrong.

In this case everybody needs to be looking at the parents of all of these trouble making teens at Hickman and all schools in the CPS District,their names publicly displayed for all to know and disciplinary actions taken by the CPS District to ensure these types of incidents are not allowed to flourish in the future.

The time has come for the parents of the good students to stand up as responsible parents on these issues and be heard.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 18, 2008 | 1:07 p.m.

When dogs or cats are in a fight, you have the option of just hanging back and watch them destroy each other. If you try to separate them, you stand a good chance of getting bit or clawed. The school administrators and police department employees handled the situation in the most appropriate manner.
If the parents want to blame racial discrimination, send your precious little black gems to an all black school.
Your kids were treated based on their behaviors, not on the color of their skin.
(No wonder Hickman wants to release these kids out into the community for off-campus lunch. Keeping them in the "zoo" must make it real difficult to manage the herd during feeding time. When is attending school going to be viewed as a privelege?)

(Report Comment)

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