Teen fight clubs in Southwest Florida
LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Could your teen be taking part in a potentially deadly activity behind your back? Some southwest Florida parents say yes, after discovering their son and dozens of other kids fought in a mixed martial arts style fight club.
Earlier this month, Lee County Sheriff's deputies arrested brandon and Angela Harrison and their son, who's a minor for promoting and hosting an MMA style fight in their backyard.
Concerned parents reached out to FOX 4 after they discovered their son had fought behind their backs. They want other parents to know the dangers, but they also want to protect their son.
Dukes up, kids bounce around before running at each other, each taking a hard hit to the face.
“These kids could be hurt or killed." One parent says. "They're doing this on purpose."
IN THE WOODS AND BACKYARDS OF SOUTHWEST FLORIDA, TEENS ARE BEATING EACH OTHER UP FOR SPORT.
Video clips on Facebook show at least one fight clearly taking place in someone's backyard. We don't know if any of these videos were taken at the Harrison's home.
In one video, a child acting as the ref claps to signal the fight is on. One kid throws a kick, connecting with his opponent, who pounds back punches of his own. They spar for a few moments, before one of them stops, obviously hurt and holding a hand to his head.
"It doesn't take much to break a person's neck." The parents were shocked when they discovered what their teen was doing. "You go pick them up, they're all bloody, black and blue."
The parents showed us several Facebook videos. Most matches went on for minutes. In another video, the kid in black shorts pummels his opponent, who's already on the ground, trying to protect his head.
The kid suffers several blows to the back. Still, the ref allows the fight to continue.
"Do whatever you gotta do to get up man," someone yells on the video.
In another backyard brawl, the photographer brags about breaking a kid's nose. “He wouldn't stop bleeding."
In many of the videos, a crowd has gathered to watch, including little kids. Three little ones are watching the backyard brawl at a house.
The concerned parents we interviewed alleged that the homeowners in this video were actually hosting the fights.
"It's entertainment for them, and they're not held responsible," parents says.
After interviewing the parents, deputies arrested the Harrisons. The day before they were arrested, FOX 4 paid a visit to their Lehigh Acres home.
One of the guys living there identified himself as being 18 and a member of the family. He admitted a fight had been held in the backyard. He did not give his name and he has not been arrested or charged with any crimes.
FOX 4 asked "We've seen several videos that clearly show that clothes line in your backyard with kids fighting."
"Yeah, that was last year. “We've had one fight and that's it." The boy replied.
But the fights aren't just happening in backyards. Black spray painted stars and cryptic words mark several of the trees in this wooded area of Veterans Park. Spent incense packets, cigarettes, and old soda bottles have been left behind.
“I've seen people get sent to the hospital." A fourteen year old kid says, who has been watching the fights in the park for the past two years.
FOX 4: "Do your parents know you guys are doing this?"
FOX 4: "why not?"
Child: "Because if a parent shows up, they'll call the cops. And that's not a good thing for the people who place their bets."
The child alleges bets are placed. Before the fights, he says the more money you pay, the more hurt one of the fighters can get.
He also says, the fights are organized by race. "If you're Asian, you get put in a special fight with Asian people, if you're black, you get put in the black category."
We passed all the information along to law enforcement as we learned it. A spokesperson for the Lee County Sheriff's Office says while several agencies already run patrols in Veterans Park, they now have a better idea of what to look out for.
Meanwhile, our concerned parents want others to know what's going on, before someone gets hurt. "I want other parents to pay attention. If your child comes home with black eyes, fat lips…please, ask them questions."
A lee county sheriff's office spokesperson says from the time we brought the information to their attention, they took it seriously. Deputies say the school resource officers at one particular school identified all the kids in the fight videos and warned them. If they get caught fighting again, they will be arrested.