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I-Team: Family claims excessive force used during arrest outside high school football stadium, police disagree

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KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A Luzerne County family says they want answers in what they call excessive force by police during the arrest of their teenage sons.

The arrests happened Saturday night after a high school football game in Kingston outside the Wyoming Valley West stadium. Two teenagers insist they were manhandled by police officers, but police say it’s the teenagers who were out of control.

“I was saying you let me go I didn’t do nothing, what’s this all about. They were trying to say we were going to be in a fight. We weren’t in a fight at all,” said Joshua Hart, who believes police used excessive force on him.

16-year-old Joshua Hart and his twin brother Jesse say Kingston Police used excessive force when they were arrested Saturday night. The arrests came during a large fight involving dozens of other teenagers.

“There were a lot of fights going to be happening. I was just trying to get my friends out of there to leave because all the cops were there. As I was walking the next thing I knew this cop grabs me and put me on the ground and arrested me,” said Jesse Hart, who was also involved in the incident Saturday night.

The two brothers allege they were thrown to the ground needlessly and suffered minor bruises and cuts.

“They could have handled it way better, they didn’t have to slam kids to the ground,” said Joshua.

Their family is demanding answers.

“My whole question is why they did what they did. They had no reason to do it all, they are minors,” said the boy’s mother Stephanie Neely.

The I-Team went looking for answers and spoke to the officers who made the arrests.

“Those two individuals were fighting with our officers and refused to comply. We told them eight to 10 times to stop their actions and to leave, which they refused,” said Kingston Police Chief Richard Kotchik.

Video of the huge fight and the arrests of the Hart brothers is making its rounds on social media.

“Even what you see on the video you can clearly see people were just being taken into custody. The officers were using force they had no other choice. They used the force to take people into custody to disperse the crowd. That was it, no excessive force involved in that,” said Kingston Police Department Detective Stephen Gibson.

Leaders of a Luzerne County school district say they are trying to figure out what to do to stop large fights that have been taking place after football games.

The most recent was Saturday night outside the Wyoming Valley West stadium in Kingston.

School district officials met Monday with Kingston Police to plan their next move. They say the fights have been getting larger and more violent after home games in Kingston.

“At the end of the game we probably end about probably 100 or more individuals. Basically put us into a riot situation,” Kingston Police Department Chief Richard Kotchik said.

That how Kingston Police describe the large fight Saturday night outside the Wyoming Valley West High School football stadium. And it’s getting to be an all too common and dangerous situation. One video is making the rounds on social media.

“Over the last few weeks we have some major problems down at Wyoming Valley West stadium after football games. What I mean is multiple upon multiple fights, large fights, violent groups causing problems,” Chief Kotchik said.

Chief Kotchik and his detectives met with officials from the Wyoming Valley West School District Monday afternoon to try and come up with a game plan moving forward.

“Night games, day games. I’m not sure what we are going to end up doing. The night games possible moving to early Saturday afternoon games,” Chief Kotchik said.

Chief Kotchik says the most recent game was moved to 4 p.m. Saturday in an effort to head off violence. It didn’t solve the problem.

“The problem is we need to provide a safe environment for people and we are having a hard time doing that with what we are seeing,” Chief Kotchik said.

The I-Team has learned information about this coming weekend’s activities. According to the Wyoming Valley West superintendent Dave Tosh, the football game will be played at noon on Saturday. Senior Night will be either before the game or possibly on Friday night under the lights with just the band, cheerleaders, football players and parents. There has not been a decision on Senior Night yet, according to Tosh.

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