Rider recounts 'frightening' teen fight on Metro

By Ann E. Marimow and Martin Weil
Sunday, August 8, 2010

Billy Fettweis of Capitol Hill was planning to catch Metro home after a late dinner at Gallery Place on Friday when he got caught up in a massive brawl that officials say involved as many as 70 people, led to three arrests and put four people in the hospital.

"It was very frightening. We didn't know what was happening," said Fettweis, 24, whose companion was pushed out of a train car and knocked to the ground. "Who were these people?"

Metro Transit Police have charged three District teenagers in the fight that began at the Gallery Place Station about 11 p.m., continued on the train and spilled onto the platform for the Green and Yellow lines at L'Enfant Plaza Station. It is unclear how many people in the crowd were fighting.

The Gallery Place neighborhood in Northwest Washington has become a popular hangout for teenagers, and the D.C. police department has enhanced its presence in the area.

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) said he thinks the answer is an earlier curfew. District residents 17 and younger have to be off the streets by midnight in the summer. Wells proposed an 11 p.m. curfew for people 15 and younger, but most of the council members opposed the move, with some saying that it could lead to profiling.

"Curfews do have an impact, especially in that area. I wish I had been able to get enough of my colleagues to vote for it," Wells said Saturday. "It gives the police one more tool to help ensure that young people are not out doing bad things."

A Metro representative said Angelo Nicholas, 18, of the District was charged with disorderly conduct. Two 16-year-old males were also charged, one with simple assault and the other with disorderly conduct.

Transit police were investigating what sparked the incident and reviewing videotape. No weapons were recovered at the scene, said Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato. Of the four people who were taken to the hospital Friday, three remained under observation Saturday, Asato said.

On Friday, Fettweis said he and his dinner companion were riding on the train about 11 p.m. when they heard yelling and taunts and saw what looked like a schoolyard brawl involving teenagers at the other end of the car. As the train approached L'Enfant Plaza, Fettweis said, "people started running past us, away from the fight."

Teenagers were yelling and pushing as they got off the train, Fettweis said. As he and his friend walked toward the platform for the Blue and Orange lines, they got caught up in a stampede heading out of the station.

A group of about a dozen teenagers stayed behind, he said, pounding on one male teenager with what Fettweis said looked like a belt.

Within two or three minutes, Fettweis said, a Metro officer arrived and started waving people out of the station.

"We didn't know what was happening," he said. "There was hysteria."

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