Vermilion police release body cam video of alleged racist incident, assaults at Firelands high school party

Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 10:22 PM EDT
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VERMILION, Ohio (WOIO) - Vermilion police are investigating reports of assault, underage drinking, and racial slurs being used at a Fireland High School football player’s house party. The school district has launched its own investigation.

On Monday 19 Investigates received the body camera video from the police. The footage is heavily redacted because there were so many minors involved in the incident.

A couple of weeks ago 19 News spoke with a teenage girl who was at the party and claimed to have witnessed the only Black kid there getting bullied, called racial slurs, and knocked unconscious.

In the body camera video, the kids on the football team deny any of that happened.

“Did somebody get knocked out?” the player’s mom asked. “Were you guys fighting or something?”

“There was a boxing match with boxing gloves,” one of the kids replied.

“We got a report that there was two separate assaults,” an officer said. “One came home and advised his parents that he was assaulted here and another one was still here and unconscious that’s why we’re here right now.”

Vermilion police responded to a home on North Ridge Road on August 14.

“There’s an African American kid here they’re all throwing racial slurs at him and he was just knocked unconscious,” said Ella Wojciechowski, who attended the party.

Ella Wojciechowski went to a party at a Fireland football player’s house. She claimed many of the kids there were throwing around the n-word. Ella said when the only Black kid at the party tried to tell the other kids to stop using that word one of the partygoers put the black teen in a chokehold and forced him to call him master or “massa”. Ella said she held her phone down and recorded it.

“I was hearing call me massa and all yelling massa and everybody around them is screaming the n-word at him,” said Ella.

She claimed the Black teen who was very drunk was then pressured into a boxing match with another teen and was knocked unconscious.

In the body camera video, you can hear police talk with the homeowner, one of the player’s mothers who was home throughout the party.

“So, I know they have one Black friend and so somebody said that they were calling him ni**** and whatever,” the mom said.

“They…they were just joking around,” one of the kids added.

19 News has learned the party was hosted at the home of a retired law enforcement officer. I spoke with him on the phone. He denied there was any alcohol served to minors at his home and said he doesn’t believe any of the kids there would do or say anything racist, but officers on the scene seemed to believe minors had been drinking at his home that night.

“There’s empty beer cans, bottles, boxing gloves, fireballs, individual fireballs,” one officer said.

“The one that I was talking to I smelled plenty,” said another officer.

“It always works in your best interest to come up to us and talk to us dude like I’m saying now I’m not throwing cuffs on you guys for an underage party,” one of the officers said to the minors. “It is what it is but just keep that in mind it can come back to bite you and I don’t want to see that happening to a bunch of good kids.”

19-year-old Colin Wojciechowski was horrified when he came to pick up his younger sister and she told him everything that had happened, so he went to the house to try to check on the alleged victim and talk some sense into the other kids.

“Before I could even get any words out of my mouth he swung and hit me in the side of the face and that’s when it just went straight downhill from that,” Colin said. “A kid yelled, ‘Get him!’ I got tackled into the yard and at that point, I was just covering my head because I was outnumbered.”

Colin said the football team jumped him and went to the er with a fractured cheekbone and bloody nose. The kids at the party told police Colin was the aggressor.

“He hit uh someone in the face I forgot who and he pushed him off and put him in grass,” one kid said.

Colin told police the same thing he told me two weeks ago, that he didn’t start the fight and he never hit anyone.

“When I got there the first thing I said was I don’t wanna fight because I don’t wanna get in trouble and all that happened and I didn’t throw any punches I didn’t hit anybody I kind of just covered myself so I wouldn’t get too injured,” Colin told officers in the body camera video.

The alleged victim told police his teammates weren’t bullying him and he didn’t care if they called him the n-word.

“That’s the thing because they weren’t being racist to me, he came up here just talking,” the alleged victim said.

But that didn’t supply Ella who believes the victim was just afraid to stand up to his teammates. “He didn’t give me that impression whatsoever,” she said. “He had tears rolling down his face and he said how he hated how much these players treated him.”

The Fireland Board of Education president Mike O’Keefe said they became aware of racial allegations earlier this month and found them troubling enough to launch their own investigation.

The Vermilion police chief said he has a few follow-up interviews to do and then he will send everything off to the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office in the next week or two.