CINCINNATI - A rush of punching and pushing during a kindergarten graduation ceremony Monday put a Ohio elementary school on lockdown.
Police say Raymond Walker, 33, started the fight with another man during the event at North Elementary School. The brawl then spread from two to about 20 people, witnesses said.
"It was horrible," Kim Calai said. "I'm standing there, and all of a sudden this rush of people throwing punches is coming at me."
Calai’s son was graduating in the ceremony when the melee broke out.
She said the children on stage witnessed violence between several parents.
"There was a gentleman who was carrying a newborn that got hit,” she said.
School officials removed Walker and another man from the building at 2170 Struble Rd. at about 11:30 a.m. Officials said Walker is the parent of a child at the school.
Six police cruisers responded to the scene shortly after. The Mount Healthy City School District superintendent was also called.
Authorities said the school was placed on lockdown during the incident, and students were told to take shelter in their classrooms. Children taking part in the ceremony were removed from the gymnasium.
Police charged Walker with assault and felony inducing panic. Authorities said he is not in custody because he left the school before officers arrived.
"(Walker was charged) because it occurred on school grounds, created an alarm to all the individuals, caused the lockdown and caused the evacuation,” Springfield Police Sergeant Scott Hughes said. “This was more than just a couple people fighting."
Stacy Liggett, who was at the event when the fight broke out, said people in the audience were pushing one another.
"You could tell from the beginning that something was going to happen," Liggett said. "It sickens me."
Liggett called the fight "scary," and said she was worried about the safety of the children nearby.
"These kids were robbed of their special day," she said. "Their kindergarten graduation. It's not right. I am not blaming the school one bit, but with that many students, you are going to have a lot of parents and family attending. It was out of control."
Calai said she heard from others at the school the fight started over a parent not being able to see his child.
She said her son had a lot of questions about the incident.
“When we were leaving, he kept asking me, ‘Why are the police here? What are the police doing here? Why are they here?’ Calai said. “To have something like that happen at a graduation is pretty pathetic."
"This was a celebration for these kids who graduated,” he said. “Clearly not the time or place to take out your frustrations on another parent."
Walker has been arrested in the past, and charged with several crimes including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, possession of marijuana, possession of an open flask, being in a park after hours and driving without a license.
He served nine months in prison for attempting to escape police in Springfield Township. Court documents show he struck a tree and seriously injured a passenger during the chase in April 2003.
Authorities ask anyone with knowledge of Walker’s location call Crime Stoppers at 513-352-3040.