A fight among teenagers in the parking lot of a Bluffton movie theater led to a high-speed chase that ended with a Jeep crashing into The Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette building late Friday, according to a police report released Monday.
The father of one of the boys involved in the scuffle near the theater on Buckwalter Parkway also faces charges related to the crash, which caused about $50,000 in damages.
According to the report, the boy, a juvenile whose name has been withheld along with his age, was assaulted by a group of other male teenagers at 9:45 p.m. in the theater's parking lot. Police have determined the fight was planned because of a conflict over a girl.
The group of about six to eight teens punched the boy in the face, leaving him with a bloody lip.
When witnesses told the group involved in the beating that police had been called, the teens split and drove away in three separate vehicles.
The father of the boy who had been attacked arrived to pick up his son and chased down one of the fleeing cars, a green Jeep Wrangler, at a high speed down U.S. 278, into Rose Hill Plantation and eventually behind the newspaper building, according to the report.
The Jeep driver later told police he attempted to evade the car by "weaving in and out of traffic and also going into Rose Hill," the report said. He drove behind the Packet building and came to a dead end, where and he and the other occupants jumped out of the Jeep and ran into the woods "because he was in fear for his life," the report said.
The Jeep driver said he didn't crash into the building but had put it in park and left the keys in it.
The boy who had been beaten and whose father instigated the chase admitted that he got into the Jeep after finding it parked behind the building, but said it was still in drive, according to the report. He told police the seat was up too far, which caused his knee to hit the gas pedal and the Jeep to crash into the building.
The boy and his father returned to the theater parking lot to meet with police soon after the crash.
The father was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and was released on his own recognizance, according to the Beaufort County Detention Center log.
His son has been issued a citation for leaving the scene of an accident with property damage of more than $10,000. He will be petitioned to Juvenile Court, said Lt. Joe Babkiewicz.
Witnesses and teenagers who were involved in the fight told police in different statements that a gun, a knife and a baseball bat were involved in the incident. However, police have found no evidence that any weapons were on hand during the fight, Babkiewicz said.
No one required medical attention as a result of the fight, he added.
The teens in the fight agreed not to press assault charges against one another by signing refusal-to-prosecute forms, according to the report.
The impact of the crash ripped out a sink and counter from a break room at the newspaper, left a crack in the wall several feet high and broke water pipes, causing temporary flooding.