Overcrowding at church youth event leads to several arrests

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (September 1, 2014) - By most standards, any time you can attract 2,000 teenagers to a church event, it's considered a good thing.

But the large number of teens at a 12-hour lock-in event Sunday night lead to several fights and resulted in several juvenile arrests outside the church.

Organizers at Light of the World Christian Church had promoted Sunday night's lock-in under the title "No Child Left Outside." But it was early into the event when it became clear that some children were going to have to be left outside.

Church leaders were advised that the building in the 4600 block of North Michigan Road had reached its capacity of 1,500 people. Bringing more teens inside would violate fire and safety codes.

Somewhere between 400 and 500 teens were still waiting to get inside the building for the event.

"I got a call around 8:45 Sunday night," said the Rev. Charles Harrison, with Indianapolis' Ten Point Coalition. "There were a couple thousand kids out there and parents were just kind of dropping the kids off."

"Then the kids started pushing saying 'Let us in, let us in,'" he said. "And that's when they said they were going to have the police come up there. And once they had the police come up there, that's when all everything started happening."

Indianapolis Metropolitan police say they had to break up several fights, using chemical spray at times. At least five juveniles were arrested on charges including battery and resisting arrest.

Sirzion Dance's mother, Renee Dance, says she is furious over the way the situation was handled. She told FOX59 she dropped her son off at 7:30 p.m., then received a call from him around 10:30 p.m. telling her she had to pick him up. She said her son had been told to leave the church property, and she could still smell the chemical spray on him when he got into her car.

"I sent him here to have a good time," Renee Dance said. "I picked my child up wandering on Michigan Road."

"They told us that nobody was going to be left outside and everybody was going to be able to get in the building," Sirzion Dance said. "And then when they couldn't, everybody started getting mad."

Harrison believes the underlying problem of the evening was the lack of funding from the city that used to make it easier to host several lock-in events at several churches. He says a citywide event like this should be spread out over multiple locations.

"Let's have a site on the east side, the west side, the south side, so that we divide that crowd up."

It's not clear if Sunday night's situation will affect planning for future events. Messages left at Light of the World Christian Church had not been returned Monday.

D. Paul Thomas, who lives across the street from the church hopes the incident will not discourage future events from being organized.

"We've lived here for two and a half years," Thomas said. "And event after event that this church has is trying to make a difference for good in this neighborhood."