Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

August 21, 2013

Neighborhood brawl gets blown out of proportion

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Ever heard of “rumors” or “broken telephone?” The game where you whisper a sentence into someone's ear and that person whispers the same way to someone else and so on and so forth down a line of people?

Ultimately, the last player will utter his or her sentence out loud and it will sound nothing like what the first player said.  

That's the kind of logic Jacksonville Police believe they were dealing with Monday afternoon when witnesses of a “small neighbor's feud” around the 800 block of Palestine reported to TV media and others that they were witnessing a 30-person gang fight with bats and possibly a knife or two.

Jacksonville Police Sgt. Jason Price said that description was absolutely, positively incorrect.

“The people who called the police department, I guess reported what they think they saw,” the sergeant said. “Whoever called must have thought they saw 30 people – but there weren't that many people on the street. … As far as baseball bats and sticks, there was no indication anyone had those, either."

Sgt. Price said the incident started about 6 p.m. when a group of perhaps three people in the 700 block of Palestine and a similar group of three in the 800 block started yelling at one another.

 "Only three of those people got into a fight – drop that zero," the sergeant said. "Once the media got here, one guy already involved decided he wanted to be be big and bad and show the police how he could fight. He ended up getting pepper-sprayed for his effort."

In addition to two fighters, police arrested one person who was drunk and a few others on disorderly conduct. The two who were pepper-sprayed tried to run away but were quickly captured.

But the numerous reports kept coming in that 30 people, many allegedly carrying bats, had entered into a destructive melee.

One alleged witness texted such a message to a Jacksonville Daily Progress reporter late Monday.

The witness alleged that “on Palestine street close to 6  or 6:15 p.m.  a gang fight of 20 to 30 people using bats and at least one knife.”

Sgt. Price said he realized the story had grown out of control when the TV news networks started calling in from Tyler. The names of those involved were not immediately available Tuesday.

Everyone involved was in his 20s and all offenses were misdemeanors, Price said.

“It was absolutely a neighbor's feud,” the sergeant said.