Cops and Courts

Violent teen fight in Westover ends with injuries, arrest

At least one teen is hospitalized, and others were treated for injuries after what is being described as a “melee” between a group of teenagers on Millan Street in Westover at around 1:30 a.m. Thursday.

An 18-year-old female is in custody in relation to the fight.

Westover Police Chief Joe Adams said the address where the fight occurred – 29 Millan St. – is well-known to his officers who have been called to the location for disturbances multiple times in the past.

When officers Ben Scott and Zachary Fecsko arrived on the scene, they saw a female identified as Alyssa D. Bess, 18, of Buckhannon, engaged in an argument with others there. According to the criminal complaint, Bess was heard saying that “she would beat someone’s a** again.”

The officers reported speaking with three victims who were all juveniles, one age 14 and two age 16.

One of the 16-year-old victims told the officers that during the altercation with them and the other two juveniles, Bess allegedly struck them in the head with a metal object. According to the complaint, police later determined that metal object to be brass knuckles.

Officer Scott reported the juvenile who was struck with the hand-held weapon was transported to the hospital, where they were diagnosed with a concussion, multiple contusions and dental trauma.

While on scene, police say Bess told them multiple times that she was drunk.

Bess was placed under arrest and transported to the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office for processing. While at the county facility, court documents indicate Bess became combative with transport officers and struck one of them. She was allegedly not able to be fingerprinted due to her combative nature.

The cause of the fight is still under investigation, however Adams said they currently speculate the altercation began over what he described as “social media beefing.” The slang term “beefing” generally means arguing or fighting.

Arguments that begin online, particularly with young people, are taken to the streets more than one might think, resulting in physical fights, shootings and, in some cases, death.

A 2021 study titled, “How social media turns online arguments between teens into real-world violence,” originally published in “The Conversation” by researchers at the University of Connecticut, looked at how social media communication can trigger and accelerate offline, real-life violence.

The study interviewed young people who claimed that there were four features of social media in particular that seemed to escalate conflicts that begin online – comments, livestreaming, picture/video sharing and tagging.

The study found through the interviews that online arguments that would otherwise fizzle down and die out with time, can be amplified or “hyped up” by uninvolved commenters who instigate continued fighting between the original parties.

Livestreaming just adds to the problem by instantly attracting large audiences to watch the conflicts unfold in real-time.

Because young people are very aware of the number of comments a post gets, or how many people are viewing a livestream, peer pressure can make it difficult to opt out of a conflict once it starts.

The background and circumstances that led to the Millan Street brawl are still being investigated.

Bess is currently being charged with malicious assault, however Adams said he expects additional charges to follow as the investigation continues.

Bess was arraigned in Monongalia County Magistrate Court on Thursday. As of Thursday afternoon, she was being held on $50,000 bond at North Central Regional Jail.

The condition of the victims is unknown at this time.