By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County Police arrested 10 Lovejoy High School students, including two who were pepper-sprayed, during two separate incidents at the school on Tuesday, according to a Clayton County police spokesman.
In the end, one student was arrested for allegedly gambling and carrying a knife at the school, and nine other students were facing charges stemming from a food fight that took place at the school, at almost the same time, according to police officials.
"It was just all happening at once," said Clayton County Police spokesman, Officer John Schneller.
Schneller said officers had been called to the school Tuesday morning, after an assistant principal at the school told Lovejoy's school resource officer (S.R.O.) that a student was allegedly engaged in gambling outside the school's cafeteria. Police came and arrested the youth, but also found he was carrying a knife on him, according to Schneller.
Schneller said he could not confirm that student's age, nor what type of gambling was involved. "I don't know if the kid was playing cards, or throwing dice, or what," the officer said.
Officer Phong Nguyen, another Clayton Police spokesman, said that the student, who has only been described as a minor, was arrested and taken to the Regional Youth Detention Center.
Nguyen said a food fight then broke out in the school cafeteria, at approximately 11:15 a.m., just as Clayton police were wrapping up the gambling arrest.
Schneller said officers broke up the food fight, but "apparently some students were not ready to stop" as a melee then broke out between students and police. One student, he said, resisted arrest by an officer, and another student then attempted to come to his schoolmate's aid.
"Another student jumped on that officer's back," Schneller said. "Another officer then came up, and gets the student off the other officers back. The second officer then used a foam pepper spray on the two students [who had been fighting with the first officer]."
School system spokesman Charles White said the fight was a "minor incident," but emergency medical technicians were called in "as part of standard procedure" to treat the students who were pepper-sprayed.
Four students, including the two who were pepper-sprayed, were booked in the Clayton County jail as adults, Nguyen said. Five other students involved in the food fight, all minors, were released to their parents, he added.
Schneller said the two students who were pepper-sprayed have been identified as Jefferson Rivera, 18, and Erik Fuentes, 17. Each was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, obstruction, simple battery on a police officer and disrupting a public school, he said.
Schneller said seven other students were arrested "either on disorderly conduct, or obstruction charges" in connection with the food fight.
Nguyen said the names of two other students who were arrested as adults, and taken to the county jail with Rivera and Fuentes, were not immediately available on Tuesday afternoon.
County inmate records show, however, that at approximately the same time that Rivera and Fuentes were booked into the county jail, Hampton residents Markail Jerome Horton and Juan Luis Lopez, both 18, were also booked on charges of disorderly conduct, and disruption with the operation of a public school. Lopez was also booked on a charge of obstruction of an officer, according to inmate records.
White and police officials were not able to confirm the grade levels of any of the students involved. White also said "the school took appropriate disciplinary action" in dealing with the pupils, but he was not able to elaborate on what actions were taken.