Youth football games interrupted by gang violence

September 16, 2010 5:02:40 PM PDT
Football games for young boys were interrupted last weekend by what community leaders call gang violence at the park where the teams play. Now pastors and police are doing what they can to make sure it doesn't happen again. Community leaders are calling for peace -- a truce among rival gangs. They fear an innocent bystander could get hurt if there is another battle in southeast Houston.

As church members returned from a funeral across the street from the park Saturday afternoon, they stumbled upon what they call "mayhem."

Pastor Ronald Smith of the New Mount Cavalry Baptist Church said, "Boys were running from the park. It was just a mass confusion on the corner."

What they saw apparently was the end of a fight between rival gangs, one which eyewitness say began on the basketball court at Law Park.

"We've got to make a real effort to ensure that this doesn't happen again," Pastor Smith said.

Eyewitnesses say the apparent turf battle began just feet from fields which were full of teams from the Greater Houston Football League. The park was packed with an estimated 500 people. Though this happened almost around the corner from a Houston police substation, those involved fled before officers could arrest anyone. The head of the football league decided games should not resume.

L.E. Chamberlain with the Greater Houston Football League said, "I cancelled all the games for the safety of the kids. It's not important. We can come back and play another day. We just shut everything down."

Now the concern flows from rumors that the gangs will return this weekend, armed for battle.

Houston Police Lt. Randy Upton explained, "If they're having turf wars out here, then we'll step up our presence and try to get it stopped."

Police say they have not seen a problem with gangs at this park or nearby in the recent past. But they'll be here anyway Saturday as the kids take to the football fields to ensure the only battle that goes on is the one between the goal posts.

Pastor James Nash with Ministers Against Crime said, "We're not going to let them take over this park. Too long we've been apart from each other. Now we're going to mobilize together to make sure this doesn't happen again."

City leaders say they are aware of no gang problems at this park, at least until this incident. They coincidentally are adding lights at the park, but that was planned long before this clash.


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