Viral videos of Gulfport fight prompt police chief to speak out

Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania
Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania Sun Herald File

A viral Facebook video of a mob scene and fights between women at an apartment complex prompted the police chief to speak out Wednesday night.

The fight happened Sunday at Emerald Pines Apartments, which is just west of U.S. 49 and north of 28th Street. Videos circulating on social media show 20 to 30 people in a parking lot. Many are yelling and holding up cellphones to record what is going on. Some are yelling for the women to stop fighting, some are egging it on.

At first, many people are shouting at a woman to put a baseball bat down. Later in the video, there are at least two bats visible and one woman takes a swing but it doesn’t appear the bat fully connects with anyone.

There are several physical altercations between different women in the videos.

When a police vehicle arrives, everyone scatters from the parking lot.

Police Chief Leonard Papania released a video interview on Twitter about the incident. He said police received multiple calls about the incident.

“I talk a lot about criminal subculture,” Papania said. “Imagine a 3- and 4-year-old child standing watching their mom engage in this kind of violent behavior. And the the dads ... and the adult men are sitting there egging it on and videotaping it.”

He mentioned how popular fight videos are on YouTube and the website World Star Hip Hop.

“If you want to talk about why we have violence among our youth, just look at these videos,” he said. “It speaks volumes.”

He went on to blame the owners of the property, and said he they had twice refused to meet with him about ongoing incidents. Officers responded to more than 600 calls there in the past year, he said, and a little over 90 of them resulted in arrests.

“There seems to be no real concern to disperse this crowd until the police showed up, which also speaks to how that property, which is a private property, and how poorly run it is.”

Because only three of those arrests were for trespassing, he said that pointed to “a weak management team.”

“It’s had a million different names but the same flavor for years,” he said of the complex.

He also criticized the property owners for being from out of town, saying “they’re not from Gulfport or from the Coast and that’s one of the downsides of these-style properties.”

Papania also said residents of those apartments deserved to live in better conditions.

“This isn’t a citywide problem, it’s isolated in some poorly run properties,” he said.