MANATEE — Authorities are investigating whether an attack on a 13-year-old boy at the Lakewood Ranch YMCA that landed on YouTube.com was planned in advance so it could be recorded for the Internet.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has recommended the Manatee state attorney’s office charge two teenagers with battery. They can be seen on the video beating the boy, according to sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow.
The 54-second video has set off multiple investigations by the sheriff’s office, Manatee County School District and Manatee YMCA. And sheriff’s reports say the father of one boy recommended for charges was arrested on a child abuse charge after an argument with his son over the filmed fight turned physical.
The attack took place just before 11 p.m. Friday in the YMCA parking lot on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, as a nighttime youth outreach program called the 5th Quarter went on inside. The program is often run after football games to give kids somewhere to go, said YMCA executive director Sean Allison.
YMCA officials believe the ambush was planned in order to be recorded on video. Their investigation revealed that the victim, who attends a local middle school, had gone to the north end of the parking lot — which is not monitored — to meet someone for a fight, Allison said.
The victim did not report the fight to authorities until Monday, when he told a parent that students in his school told him the attack had been placed on YouTube. Deputies took photographs of the victim’s injuries and recommended battery charges for the two teens seen on the video.
The boy later told deputies he had been bullied before the fight, Bristow said.
“He told us he had enough and wanted to get it over with by going there to fight another boy,” Bristow said.
When the boy arrived, numerous teens surrounded him, many of whom can be seen smiling and laughing before the fight on the video. As the group approaches the victim on the video, a lullaby song has been overdubbed.
Then the video switches to loud heavy metal music as a boy suddenly lunges at the victim, tackling him into shrubs around a tree. A second teen, a 15-year-old boy, can then be seen raining blows down on the victim as he struggled with his initial attacker.
“This was an ambush,” Allison said.
The victim did not suffer serious injury, Bristow said. But when fights involve multiple people attacking one victim, serious injury is always a major concern.
“That gang mentality is when things can get really dangerous,” said Bristow.
Prosecutors will review the cases and decide on possible charges, according to Erica Arend, juvenile division chief for the Manatee state attorney’s office.
Arend said the video may be a factor in whether charges are filed.
“It is potential evidence that we normally don’t have in these types of cases,” Arend said.
Sheriff’s reports say the video enraged the father of the 15-year-old boy on the video. Curtis Bruce Shaw, 49, of Bradenton, was arrested Tuesday after the boy said his father punched him numerous times after watching the video.
Shaw later told deputies he hit his son while asking “if he liked being beaten up by someone.” Shaw has since been released on $10,000 bond.
The school district launched its own investigation of the fight on Wednesday, said Mike McCann, the district’s head of discipline.
“We would especially look closely at anything that showed pre-meditation such as recording something for the Internet,” McCann said. “That would be something where I would be concerned if they could do this to someone, who is to say they wouldn’t do the same thing to someone else.”
To make matters worse, just moments after the fight between the boys, several girls began fighting on the south end of the YMCA parking lot at almost the same time, Allison said.
YMCA officials were able to break up the fight, but not before a boy came out of the crowd and punched a girl in the head, which can also be seen on the same YouTube video. The girl declined to file a complaint, so no investigation is being conducted into the punch, Bristow said.
The violence has YMCA officials planning to not only monitor inside the building during 5th Quarter events, but also the entire parking lot, which may involve hiring off-duty law enforcement officers.
“We are not going to tolerate this, it is unacceptable,” Allison said. “But we also aren’t going to allow these kids to cancel out a program we think does a lot of good for the community.
“Most of the kids in Lakewood Ranch are good kids and we are going to do everything in our power to make sure they are safe.”