It began as another aimless summer evening, the kind that pulls bored young people together because they have nothing better to do.

Three days later, Fairfax police arrested six young adults. Five were charged with "malicious wounding by mob" and one of those five also was charged with two counts of robbery; the sixth was charged with tampering with a vehicle.

Police said they also will file charges, not specified, against 11 juveniles who they said participated "in these incidents," referring to a burglary, two assaults, two robberies and a "malicious wounding" they said occurred that evening.

Police, and six of the people who were in the group of 17 and who agreed to discuss the case, offer vastly different versions of what happened that July 17 Tuesday night, an evening that one local newspaper dubbed "gang" violence (although police never used the term "gang") and that some Fairfax courthouse employees are referring to as "the mob" incident.

Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., whose office will be responsible for prosecuting the cases, said yesterday the preliminary reports he has seen indicate that -- contrary to the perception of "large-group lawlessness" that was created in some news reports and police statements -- it appears that there was "certainly a couple . . . who were ready for an evening of violence. I don't think that's true for the group."

Horan said that in recent years, the police department's public relations office "gets a little extravagant in their claims." When the information released is inaccurate, as has happened on occasion, he said, his cases are "absolutely" affected.

Horan said, "You wonder where fact ends and fiction begins. Maybe there's some frustrated novel writers" in the police department.

Police spokesman Warren Carmichael said the information his office releases "is prepared in cooperation with the investigators involved" and that the release concerning July 17 "was made from statements made by investigators."

Carmichael said his office cannot control "how the media handle" the information they are given. "We make a point not to sensationalize things. Our reports are often criticized by the media as being dry."

Horan has complained before about police statements. Last year the chief prosecutor said he did not believe that Randy Breer, identified by police in a news conference as the main suspect in the abduction and slaying of 10-year-old Rosie Gordon, committed the crime. Investigators learned later that Breer had an alibi. Police still officially call Breer their prime suspect, although he has never been charged in that case.

Six adults have been charged in the July 17 incidents. Five of them -- Robert T. Brown Jr., 18, of Annandale, Jonathan Kane, 18, of Dale City, Paul F. Worosz, 18, of Annandale, Jason A. Tenburg, 18, of Fairfax and Gregory M. Allen, 18, of Fairfax -- are charged with "malicious wounding by mob" for allegedly hitting a Lincolnia man. Allen also is charged with two robberies.

Timothy Gagnon, 19, of Falls Church, was charged with tampering with a vehicle outside a house that some members of the group allegedly entered and stole items from.

No pleas have been entered, although Tenburg's attorney, Steven Merril, said Tenburg was innocent of the charge against him. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 7.

The police "know they've got the whole community thinking they've captured a gang," said Max Tenburg, Jason Tenburg's father. " . . . They're typical high school kids trying to sneak their beer here and there, but they've been doing that for 100 years. Basically they're looking for parties and cruising around.

"Some of these kids are really upset about the system," said Tenburg, who added that police would not give his son a polygraph test when he denied the charges against him and asked for one. "It's basically got them confused and a lot of parents are scared."

Police first reported the incidents on Thursday, July 19, two days after they happened. Police said that about 20 persons were involved in five attacks within a two-hour period, beginning with an incident in which two women struck an Alexandria woman on the head with a baseball bat. As it turned out, that incident was unrelated, police said this week.

In a press release last Sunday -- the last statement police have made about the incidents -- police said that "a group of 20 people . . . met on the evening of July 17 at a home in West Springfield where they discussed the allegation that one of the men, Timothy Gagnon, had been accosted by several males at a party on Beechtree Lane" in Annandale the night before. The group "drove en masse" to the Annandale home where a resident answered the door and allowed Gagnon and another young man, Kane, to enter, the release said.

Police said that others in the group, who were waiting outside, "decided to force their way inside," where they took jewelry and other small items from upstairs. "All of the participants then fled in cars . . . damaging two vehicles," the release said.

No adults have been charged with burglary, police said. They would not say if they have charged any juveniles, and under Virginia law such charges do not have to be made public.

The youths interviewed this week said the evening began when two groups of friends got together to attend a party they had heard about. Not everyone knew everyone else, Max Tenburg said.

The youths interviewed said at least half a dozen people did not go into the house, although some certainly did.

After they left the house, those interviewed said, about a dozen cars then drove to a service station to get gasoline; then at least five cars departed.

The police release said that about six cars then drove to Skyline Mall in Baileys Crossroads "where a decision was made to attack" a man standing outside the mall. "Allen and other youths did so, taking the man's bookbag," the release said. Allen is charged with robbery; police would not say if any juveniles were charged.

Kane, Brown and the teenagers interviewed said the group was upset by Allen's actions and that they decided to drive to a McDonald's on Little River Turnpike (Route 236) near Beauregard Lincolnia to discuss what to do. As they were waiting at a stop light, said those interviewed, Allen got out of Brown's car and hit a man seated on a motorcycle.

The police release says, "Allen left the vehicle, knocked the motorcyclist off his vehicle and struck him." Police spokesman Bill Coulter said the incident occurred about 11:30 p.m. No one has been charged.

Police said the next incident occurred when the group encountered two brothers at a shopping center near the McDonald's. "Allen . . . and Kane kicked and hit" one of the men "about the head. Other participants left their vehicles to kick and hit the man and chase his brother," the statement said. "Allen removed the man's wallet and took his money."

One of the men was taken to Alexandria Hospital and treated for an eye injury and cuts.

In contrast, Kane, Brown and the youths interviewed said that most of the youths in the cars that had pulled into the McDonald's had decided to abandon Allen minutes after they got to the parking lot because they were angry with his actions.

Brown, who remained at the shopping center, said that at about the same time a different group of youths, all of whom were friends of Allen's, arrived and later were involved in the fight there.

Allen, who is being held in the Fairfax jail on $75,000 bond, declined to be interviewed. His attorney also declined to answer questions.

Patricia Garland, the mother of one of the youths who rode around that evening, said her son, Kane and Worosz came to her Annandale home around 11:30 p.m. (before the fight in the parking lot began) and stayed until about 2 a.m.

Tenburg, father of one of the youths accused of fighting in the parking lot, said his son returned home at about 11:40 p.m.

Robert J. Smith, senior assistant public defender in Fairfax who has been appointed Kane's attorney, said the evening amounted to "a bunch of kids who were doing what a bunch of kids do and there were one or two bad apples."

This week some of the youths held meetings to try to collect the names of everyone who began the evening together. Some of the youths have collected $600 to help with their friends' legal defense.