In an email to the Margate city manager and forwarded to elected officials, a Margate police captain said over 30 officers were needed to disperse unruly crowds of teens when the Spring Fling Music Festival & Carnival was closing Saturday night. Coordinator of the event and Chamber of Commerce Director, Rick Riccardi, said nothing could be farther from the truth.
“I was there all night,” Riccardi said. “Two kids got in a fight in the middle of the street. That’s it. I saw the whole thing. Most kids standing on the sidewalk and in the parking lot were waiting for parents to come pick them up. It looked like most were headed south toward Atlantic. They just looked like regular kids looking for their ride."
Riccardi worked the carnival from 5 pm. to close. He helped with parking and walked the carnival midway often. He said he appreciated Margate police circulating the midway and keeping crowds safe. What he didn’t understand was the presence of police beyond the six his organization hired off-duty to patrol festival grounds. There were more than a dozen police from the Multi-Agency Gang Task Force (MAGTF) and about four more from the Margate Special Enforcement Team.
“Who’s paying you guys and why are you here? Riccardi asked officers.
The response he received was that added police were requested to attend the festival for purposes of “prevention.”
“From where I was standing, it didn’t look like they prevented a thing,” Riccardi said.
Riccardi contacted MargateNews.net to ask if we had heard anything similar. We didn’t. So we reached out to police for their report and to an elected official who attended the carnival. We also submitted a public records request for the alleged email from Shaw to City Manager, Sam May, along with any photographs police might have as evidence.
The email to May from police and the report submitted by an arresting officer didn't match up - and according to police records no photographs were submitted. Riccardi’s eyewitness account is closer to the police report than the email - but regardless he’s highly disappointed in the exaggerated accounts by police, which are highly misleading. The hyperbole reflects poorly on event sponsors and the carnival operator - who is well-known and respected throughout the state. Riccardi said he’s also tired of carnivals getting a bad rap. The events make thousands of kids and families in the area happy over ten days and are valuable fundraisers for local organizations. A portion of Spring Fling proceeds go to support local businesses.
“I’m so upset I’m beyond myself,” Riccardi said. “Why would they [police] make a bigger deal out of it than it really was?”
Police list their victim in the report as the “State” because the alleged victim fled into the crowd. While the email refers to several hundred disruptive teens, the police report points to a single fight involving several individuals.
“I wanted to let you know that we had some significant problems at the carnival last night, writes Police Captain, Jon Shaw. “A multitude of fights, disruptive teens (several hundred) and disorderly conduct and other issues occurred starting around 10:30 last night. It took officers until about midnight to disperse the crowds,” Shaw wrote to May.
In contrast, police in their report identify two juvenile teens (not hundreds of disruptive teens) one on the ground and the other kicking and stomping him. The latter was arrested for disorderly conduct and transported to juvenile detention. Charges were the result of what police describe in their report as “a fight in the middle of a busy road which caused the vehicles traveling north to stop or take evasive action, it created a potentially dangerous situation for the motorists and pedestrians in the area.”
Other discrepancies between the email and police report include the time of the incident. Shaw states in his email that “disorderly conduct and other issues occurred starting around 10:30 last night. It took officers until about midnight to disperse the crowds.”[Saturday].
While the email to May states two arrests were made. Police report a single arrrest that took place at 11:30 p.m. The report includes no witness accounts. Not even Riccardi's.
Furthermore, Riccardi disagrees with the statement in the email “Over 30 officers were needed to disperse the crowd.” He said crowds appeared to be dispersing well on their own considering that roughly 2,000 people poured out of carnival gates when it closed. To this end, the police report makes no mention that crowd control was a problem. Having circulated throughout festival grounds regularly Saturday night, Riccardi said he didn’t witness any trouble inside the gates and was not informed of such by police or the carnival operator - this, in contrast to Shaw’s statement in the email that “teens were fighting initially in the carnival.”
Notwithstanding the only fight reported by police didn’t happen in the carnival, but rather in the street, police attached the carnival’s address to the police report: 1000 N State Road 7. As far as he could see, Riccardi said the fight took place on State Road 7 in front of the former Beijing restaurant.
Margate City Commissioner, Anthony Caggiano, attended the carnival Saturday with his daughter from 8 pm. until close. He saw no indication of trouble.
"I'm the liaison Commissioner to the Chamber of Commerce. If I saw trouble I would be one of the first to help," he told MargateNews.net.
Caggiano too was pleased to see Margate police circulating inside carnival gates. The commissioner said he saw plenty of kids running around - as indicated in the email received from the city manager - because that’s what kids do. Some may have been headed to Coconut Creek Parkway to catch one of the night’s last Broward Transit buses or the same at Atlantic Boulevard. He too said most kids hanging around seemed like they were waiting for rides home. With a packed carnival at closing time, he thought crowds handled themselves fine. He did not witness any fights.
We asked Riccardi if he had seen police assist pedestrians and teens with crossing State Road 7 during and after the carnival, or if police adopted a proactive friendly approach to see if teens were safe and had rides home. We asked too if he saw any police presence in the street until the fight broke out. Riccardi answered no to both, referring to one of the City's darkest most dangerous thoroughfares at night.
“It didn’t look like they were doing anything to help the kids,” said Riccardi, the CEO of Fellowship Living, an organization committed to helping troubled men get back on their feet. Riccardi has been active with the city’s Chamber of Commerce for years and is involved in numerous faith-based efforts. “Most were just standing around,” he added.
Commissioners were told in the email that they would learn more after Shaw has a Sergeant Druzbik compile a summary of incidents at the carnival. In contrast, officers’ names that appear in the police report are Sergeant Kriplean; arresting officer M. Patellos and patrol supervisor K. Stransky.
Shaw’s email portrays the incident as hundreds of unruly teens that required more than two dozen officers to control.
"They made it sound like a riot. Nothing of the sorts happened," Riccardi said.
Hildebrand Rides Carnival CEO, Harlan Bast, said he was not made aware of any fighting or otherwise inside carnival gates all night. His people patrol the grounds regularly and are required to immediately report signs of trouble.
“Police made it sound like people were running around causing trouble. Kids were running because the carnival was closing and it was packed at the time. That’s why we like to stay open until midnite. Crowds have a tendency to thin out gradually making things easier.”
Riccardi said he called the Margate Chief of Police regarding the alleged incident, but the Chief was away. A longtime Margate resident, business leader and substance abuse treatment professional, Riccardi said he plans on speaking with elected officials regarding what he considers misinformation by Margate police.