Two teens were found guilty on Monday of participating in a pair of gang-style attacks, one of which went viral on social media.
Judge Bill Locke issued the ruling in Juvenile Court, ordering the two teens to be placed into state custody. The teens, both 15 at the time of the attacks, were led from the courtroom immediately following the ruling. It was ordered their names not to appear in the newspaper.
“I think what we have is a gang of kids,” said Judge Locke. “They were involved in an incident at Walmart, then involved in an incident at Asbury Apartments, then involved in another incident at Asbury Apartments.”
The juveniles were found guilty of assault for an unprovoked attack on Peyton Jennings, 20, as he stepped into a breezeway at Asbury Apartments. The attack was filmed and sparked widespread outcry because of the way Jennings was outnumbered and kicked and punched while he was on the ground.
During his testimony, detective Todd Rowland said the police department had received a number of calls, some from out of state, from people who had seen the video on social media and who were concerned.
Amanda Pope, the mother of Peyton Jennings, said the two juveniles need to change.
“They need to be sent away because something needs to be done with them,” said Pope. “You can’t go around beating people up and think that it’s OK. It’s only going to get worse in a few more years when they become adults. Then they’ll be going to prison.”
The juveniles were found guilty of robbery for an attack on John Dobrzenski, 22, at Asbury Apartments. Dobrzenski said the incident started when one of the juveniles asked to take a hit from his vape, then ran away with it.
Dobrzenski said he was contacted a short time later and told he would be given his vape back, but was jumped by a group of seven or eight boys when he returned.
“I got jumped and tackled and hit in the head,” said Dobrzenski from the stand. “I got hit at least 10 times in the head and they stole my wallet with $30 in it.”
Asbury Apartment resident Amanda Cotten witnessed the attack. She testified she saw Dobrzenski approaching the large group and advised him to stay away because those boys had been known to attack others. She said it was advice Dobrzenski did not heed.
“There was a group of them and they all jumped him,” Cotten testified, noting she had a clear view of what happened because it was right outside her apartment and she was the person who called police.
An incident at Walmart apparently was triggered the attack on Jennings the next day. Jennings testified he did not know any of the boys involved, only seeing them for the first time when he went to Walmart with his girlfriend and her brother. The group of boys reportedly directed raunchy comments at his girlfriend, who is a 17-year-old juvenile.
“They were making rude comments about me and my brother asked them to stop,” testified the girlfriend. “That’s when they (the group of juveniles) tried to keep getting them to go outside and fight.”
It was the next day when Jennings was attacked at Asbury Apartments, located off Oriole Drive, with him suggesting from the stand he thought a friend had lured him there to set him up to be ambushed. Jennings’ girlfriend said she was waiting in the car and watched the assault unfold.
“I sat in the car until I noticed he was getting jumped in the parking lot,” the girlfriend testified. “I got out of the car to help him. I got hit twice in the head. They finally got off him and left.”
The juveniles were originally charged with robbery for the attack on Jennings because it was reported they stole his sneakers. During testimony, Jennings said one of his shoes was ripped off his foot, but he admitted his girlfriend was able to retrieve it before he left the apartment complex.
Because he left with both shoes and no property was stolen, Judge Locke said the threshold was not met to enhance the assault to robbery.
When juveniles are placed in state custody, there is no set time frame for them to be incarcerated. According to Tom Miner, assistant district attorney, individual programs are developed for each juvenile and they must work through the program and show a certain level of rehabilitation before they are released.
Miner said they can only be held in state custody until their 19th birthday.
As for other individuals involved in the gang-style attacks, Miner says he is not aware of any other charges at this time. He said getting positive identifications of other individuals appears to be an issue.