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Was ‘beat-down’ staged?

Authorities still trying to determine exactly what happened

News Staff Writer

The mother of an Escambia County High School student is seeking criminal action against several other students who allegedly launched a brutal attack against her son on May 25, the last day of the 2017-18 school term, but authorities believe the incident might have been a staged prank that backfired.
Atmore Police Chief Chuck Brooks said this week there are indications that those involved in the May 25 local incident, including the victim — identified by a Mobile television station as Isaiah Albert — were acting in accord. The teen reportedly suffered torn knee ligaments that might require surgery, as well as bruising to his chest and abdomen.
“We’ve looked into that, and we’re still in the process of sorting everything out,” Brooks said. “From what we’ve discovered, the whole thing might have been a prank that the so-called victim was involved in.”
The alleged assault was captured on cell phone video. The grainy and shaky footage shows about 10 males, almost all of them wearing letterman’s jackets, repeatedly hitting, kicking and stomping another male as he lay in the ECHS parking lot.
According to the television station, which showed the video several times during newscasts and posted it to the station’s website, the attack was “eerily similar to what happened at Davidson High School, back in April,” when a freshman football player’s arm was broken after he was hit, kicked and jumped upon repeatedly by at least 20 of the team’s upperclassmen.
Four students of the Mobile school, all juveniles, were arrested, charged with third-degree assault and incarcerated overnight in a youth corrections facility in connection to that incident.
While the Mobile station reported that it wasn’t sure if any athletes were involved in the Atmore incident, its on-air newscaster stated that, “What’s very clear is the vicious, mob mentality we see in that disturbing video.”
The teen has reportedly admitted to authorities that he and several other students had been “horse-playing” in the school gym for several hours prior to the attack, but the police chief indicated that there might have been a little more than horse-playing involved.
“Mr. [ECHS Principal Dennis] Fuqua, the School Resource Officer and one of our investigators looked into it, and there were several texts between the people involved, as to who was going to film it and who was going to do what else,” revealed Brooks, who said police have turned over their investigative file to juvenile authorities. “There are a lot of variables to this case. It happened, we investigated and it’s now being handled by the juvenile probation office and the school.”
County school system officials are not at liberty to discuss the incident, since the criminal investigation is ongoing.
The victim’s mother, Rita Lee, demanded in a televised interview several days after the alleged attack that her son’s assailants be held accountable for their actions.
“It was devastating to see your child on the ground, and you have about 10 or 15 boys stomping and kicking, stomping and kicking,” the local woman said. “I don’t want no money, don’t want none of that. All I want is for the students involved in the damage to his leg, abdomen and chest, to have repercussions.”
The APD chief said he and APD investigators have discussed the incident at length with Escambia County District Attorney Steve Billy, who has agreed to postpone the filing of any formal charges in the case until juvenile authorities have made a thorough examination of police reports and evidence in order to determine exactly what happened.
The decision to defer action in the case was reached despite the fact that the injured boy’s mother has reportedly “signed several petitions” seeking criminal charges against some of the juveniles accused in the attack on her child.
The district attorney had not responded by Tuesday’s press deadline to a message left early Monday afternoon with an employee of his office.