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Violence mars graduation plans

Chris Hunsley
Northern News Services

Inuvik (May 13/05) - A series of violent brawls has Inuvik police concerned for the safety of high school students.

"These incidents stem from ongoing animosity between the two groups that fought at last year's graduation party," said Staff Sgt. Sid Gray of the Inuvik RCMP.

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Chris Cook holds up a fish club Monday, similar to one he was assaulted with Saturday. While walking home, the 20-year-old was knocked unconscious by attackers he could not identify.

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RCMP advice:

  • Remain alcohol and drug free.
  • Limit guests to graduating students and invited guests - report others to chaperones who will ask them to leave.
  • Arrange for transportation to and from the site.
  • Carry a cell phone.
  • If violence erupts, don't get physical, call the police.
  • Look out for each other.

  • Several truckloads of uninvited adults travelled to the party site at the gravel pit near Airport Lake last year, with the specific intent of fighting the student revellers, said Gray.

    Only minor injuries were sustained and charges from the June 2004 incident were later dropped in court due to lack of evidence.

    "We're fearful the same kind of incidents will occur this year."

    Two young adult males were charged with two counts of common assault after melees April 30 and May 7 outside of Frosty's Pub. They will appear before the court May 27. While one remains in custody, the other is at large.

    The remaining fighters, the total number of which is unknown, were considered to be scrapping consensually and not charged. The young man in custody has warned police of a possible recurrence of last year's graduation attack and said he's encouraging his friends not to participate, said Gray, who had already heard rumours the group may once again crash the festivities.

    "With only a few weeks to go before the end of school, we also have to assume there will be more fights before the grad," said Gray.

    Police plan to have an officer on scene at the party as much as possible and double the number of officers on duty that evening, limited resources prevent them from devoting an officer to the site.

    Instead, RCMP plan to work with students, parents and teachers to create a safe party environment while enforcing a zero tolerance policy in regards to drugs and underage drinking.

    "We want to make sure the students are safe," said Gray.

    The force has already met with teachers from Samuel Hearne secondary school and plan to approach the graduating class Thursday.

    "These fights can start over anything and these adults have the mind set they're going to teach these young guys a lesson, so it's integral that responsible chaperones be there in case of an emergency," said Gray, who feels two or three parents minimum should be present to turn away uninvited guests.

    "If anything goes hay wire there then the chaperones can call the police right away."

    In a related matter, an Inuvik man claims he was knocked unconscious around 3 a.m. on May 7 while walking by a party being held at the home of one of the men charged in the fighting incident.

    "One of them just came out and clocked me with a fish club," said Chris Cook.

    The 20-year-old, who suffered cuts and bruises to his face and head, could not identify his attackers, leaving police unable to lay charges from the incident. No formal complaint has yet to be made.

    Cook's girlfriend, Lisa Coin, brought him to the hospital to be checked out after police dropped him off at home. "I was scared and wanted to make sure he was OK. His face was all scarred up, his nose cut and he had a big bump on the left side of his head," she said.

    RCMP also uncovered allegations while investigating the May 7 brawl that the two men charged attacked someone else with a baseball bat.

    "We've been told they may have used a baseball bat on someone that evening but that person won't be a witness," said Gray.

    "To lay charges we need these guys to say 'Yeah, I did it,' which is unlikely, or we need to find another witness."