Oak Lawn police have stepped up patrols of Wolfe Wildlife Park following an Aug. 14 fight between black and white teens that led to two arrests.
Police officers in patrol cars and on bicycles are patrolling the area hourly, said Oak Lawn Division Chief Mike Kaufmann.
“It’s been known as a place to hang out,” said Kaufmann, who added that there have been no additional incidents in the past two weeks.
The fight took place near a foot bridge that connects Little Wolfe Park with walking trails that stretch to the rear of Richards High School.
Stephen Hyde, 18, of Oak Lawn, and Hexadore Randall, 19, of Chicago, were arrested and charged with battery after they were picked out of a lineup by teenagers injured in the melee, police said.
The duo said the fight was racially motivated and broke out after a group of white teens used racial slurs, according to police. They said they were walking the trails adjacent to the park when they encountered the white teens, who shouted racial slurs before hitting them, police said.
The white teens offered a different version of events. Two teens told police they were punched in the face while another said he was jumped, according to reports.
The father of one of the teens involved, who asked not to be identified, said the incident was not racially motivated.
“This was unprovoked. This had nothing to with race,” he said.
He said his son, who was alone in the park, would not utter slurs or disparaging remarks to a group of older teens accompanied by a pit bull.
“He didn’t do anything,” said the father.
The father added that he and his neighbors are worried about similar incident occurring in the village.
“I absolutely, 100 percent worry. This has been reoccurring and getting worse,” he said.
Oak Lawn Trustee Carol Quinlan (5th District), who lives near the park, said her several neighbors were unsettled by the incident.
“It’s very concerning,” Quinlan said. “They’ve been concerned for a while. We don’t want to see this in Oak Lawn. A lot of parents are upset about it. My neighbors are beside themselves. This is really, really scary to my neighbors.”
Quinlan is a friend of a woman whose son was thrown into the creek during the fight.
“He was shaking when I saw him,” Quinlan said.
Quinlan said the park, which includes a tot lot and basketball courts has a wooded area where some teens go to drink.
“There’s a lot of hiding places in there,” Quinlan said. “A lot of kids hang out there.”
Quinlan added that she’s worried about retaliation by either side.
She said that many of her neighbors would like park district to remove the baskets on the basketball court to reduce the number of teens who congregate at the park.
Park District Director Maddie Kelly said the fight is not the worst violence she has seen in her tenure.
“I’ve been here 23 years and I’ve seen much worse,” Kelly said. “It’s cyclical.”
She added that trouble seems to alternate from one park to another, including Lake Shore, Memorial and Sullivan parks over the years.
She added that park district has no plans to add security to the parks because the Oak Lawn police do an excellent job responding to calls.
“Why would we waste park district tax dollars on our own police force,” she said. “I have full confidence in the Oak Lawn police.”
She added Wolfe Wildlife Refuge is difficult for police to patrol due to its size.
“It was a fight between two groups of kids,” Kaufmann said. “When you take it do a different level you’re going to get arrested.”