Video caught by a bystander shows suspects dragging, punching, and kicking two girls. Merced police didn't include the audio but said the suspects could be heard yelling out gang slurs as they beat the two girls. Merced Police Officer Ronald Luker, a gang intervention officer at Merced High School, said videos of fights are becoming more common as more cameras and personal devices become video equipped. "A lot of times, it helps promote the gangs that show the baddest on the street, or whatever they're trying to show, through fear and intimidation," said Luker.
The fight happened October 21. Despite the gang overtones, Luker believes the dispute began because of a boy. A 15 year old girl was arrested that day. The other arrests came last week after the video came to Luker's attention.
The suspects include three girls and 25 year old Andrea Olvera, who is also facing child endangerment charges. A 15 year old boy is accused of robbery for stealing items after the victims were forced to the ground.
Neighbors said the fight happened in an area that sees a lot of foot traffic before and after school. Neighbor Joe Alonzo has seen fights in the area before. "There've been times where I've chased kids off. I've come and witnessed a fight on my corner, and I'd have to chase them off. Tell them I'd call the cops on them," said Alonzo.
Alonzo says in many cases, people pull out their phones as soon as the fights begin. But those same videos used by gang members to intimidate and brag are also used by police. "It's a great tool to be able to have, especially when you can locate it and help solve crime," said Luker.
All five suspects face assault charges with gang enhancements. If convicted, that could lead to more severe penalties.