Thomas Wootton and Winston Churchill high school students were reportedly involved in a 50-person melee that erupted in the parking lot of the Fallsgrove Shopping Center in Rockville on Friday, Feb. 4.
Montgomery County Police responded to a call from a citizen at 9:50 p.m., saying that a fight had erupted in the shopping center parking lot on Shady Grove Road. Police cars responded but found that the teenagers had left.
"The fight was over and they were gone when we got there," said police spokesman Derek Baliles.
Baliles said that reports of fights in progress are always dispatched code three — meaning that cars respond using lights and sirens — and that in many cases the sound of the approaching cars causes the combatants to disperse.
Although some teenagers said that someone wielded a bat, there were no injuries reported.
"We have no reported victims and without a reported victim we have nothing to go on," Baliles said. "If there is someone who is a victim, that would be what we need to go forward with the investigation."
At 10:45 p.m., police stopped a white Jeep Cherokee that eyewitnesses said was involved in the fight and found that one of the passengers was carrying drug paraphernalia. He was issued a criminal citation and released.
THE FIGHT MAY HAVE been connected to a Churchill-Wootton basketball game earlier that evening.
“I’ve got the feeling it was either [Churchill students] being angry about losing or [Wootton students] being silly about winning,” said Wootton Principal Michael Doran.
Doran said he and other school administrators had spoken to some students who were believed to be involved, as well as their parents. No disciplinary action has been taken against any student, said Doran, in part because of the difficulty in determining exactly who was involved.
“We did our investigation and found out some names, and we talked to some students,” said Doran. “Our focus really is on this not continuing.”
Churchill’s gym was filled to capacity with more than 1,500 fans, and the student sections for both schools were packed. Chants between both school sections went back and forth through most of the game. Student athletes from Churchill and Wootton often view the other school as their main rivals, in part due to the schools’ proximity, and the fact that Cabin John Middle School is a feeder to both high schools.
Wootton senior Jason Furst, top scorer on the boys varsity basketball team, spoke about the rivalry right after the game. “We talk a lot of trash, but … after the game, we all know it’s just part of the game,” said Furst, a club basketball teammate of two Churchill varsity players. “It doesn’t affect our friendship off the court.”
“The fans, I think, don’t get it at times,” Doran said. “The teams shake hands after the game. … The fans after the game, I don’t think, are as good.”
The schools are neighbors, said Doran. “Let’s get back on neighborly terms.”