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Skating rink staffed by one person when massive fight among juveniles broke out

Published: Nov. 27, 2021 at 11:15 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - What was supposed to be a fun night at a Madison skating rink ended with arrests and injuries, and the manager of the rink says understaffing didn’t help the situation.

Friday night, Madison Police responded to a disturbance at Fast Forward Skate. But what was first a scuffle escalated into a fight involving an estimated 250 people.

Operations manager Justin Alling says he was the only person working when hordes of people -- mostly kids -- started arriving. Many, he says were paying admission to enter the business but choosing not to skate. But handling large crowds on his own is typical of the skating rink. He says there hasn’t been a full-time staff for more than a decade.

But given November isn’t a peak business month for the rink in general, he felt unprepared for massive crowd and subsequent fights that ensued.

“We had three times as many people last night than we’ve averaged the last few months,” Alling said. “I can handle 50, 60, 80 people on my own but to get 150 to 200 people it becomes a bit of a challenge.”

Aiahnea Thomas was at the rink skating with friends when the large crowd started arriving. She says she noticed Alling doing everything on his own and felt sorry for him.

“I felt bad because he was trying to do everything by himself, like he was doing the concession stand, he was doing the front you know letting people in, and then he was trying to get people their skates, and then he was doing the DJing and then he was trying to monitor everybody as well,” said Thomas. “He was just doing everything by himself, and people weren’t being very nice to him.”

As more people started entering without paying, however, Thomas says Alling became frustrated.

“Then that’s when the fights broke out,” said Thomas. “There was one fight and then one fight led to another fight. It was just really crazy because like it literally happened in a snap. We took a break from skating, because there were actually some people who wanted to skate and that didn’t really come for all that.”

Madison Police say a concerned parent called police and estimated 70 to 80 kids were causing a disturbance. But when 4 officers arrived on scene the crowd was much larger.

“He [Alling] reported to us that several individuals had not paid, they came into the property without paying and were loitering,” said MPD officer Hunter Lisko, who was on the scene Friday.

Lisko said when police arrived, however, there was not an active fight scene. Officers were there for about 15 minutes, working with Alling to close the business. But Thomas says the kids didn’t change their behavior.

“One juvenile then proceeded to stand up on the concessions counter and began throwing items into the crowd which insighted several smaller fights throughout this very large crowd,” said Lisko.

“That’s when they started again,” Thomas said. “That’s when the police came in with the pepper spray and were chasing us around.”

At the point, Lisko says many people started moving toward the front door to leave, but the fighting continued in the parking lot. According to MPD, members of the crowd even climbed on top of squad cars that were parked outside.

MPD says they requested assistance from law enforcement partners in the area and eventually 27 officers from at least 5 area agencies were on scene.  The Madison Fire Department staged ambulances nearby in the event they were needed.

Two juveniles and one adult were arrested. While making an arrest, Lisko says an MPD officer sustained a minor injury but was treated and released at the scene.

“That officer is doing well he’s on duty today,” said Lisko.

Alling says the whole situation was “unfortunate,” but not a setback to his plans to buy the rink. He’s been involved at Fast Forward since the 90s and hopes to make the business his own, hire more people and renovate the space.

“Last night comes down to a parenting perspective,” said Alling. “Holding yourself accountable, your kids accountable, for disciplining your kids so they don’t cause a ruckus. Theres no reason kids should be dancing around on police cars, dancing around on our tables or on our concession counter or even going behind our concessions to cause an issue.”

He says moving forward all guest will be reuqired to purchase skates before entering to prevent loitering.

“It wasn’t fair to the people who were there and actually wanted to skate and plus the people that were there, the outside families like some of the parents were traumatized,” said Thomas.

MPD says this is not the first time police have been called to the rink for a disturbance involving juveniles. NBC15 is working to confirm these other incidents and are waiting for the reports to be released.

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