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Theme Park Downplayed Clash, Church Asserts

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A church group Tuesday accused Six Flags Magic Mountain of concealing the seriousness of “chaos and violence” at the park last month, saying its members would not return until the park is safer.

A park spokesman replied that there were “rowdy kids” at the park May 30 but that the incidents were not as serious as the church group contends.

A spokesman for Southern California Foursquare Churches said that, contrary to assertions by Magic Mountain executives that the incidents were minor, members of his group witnessed numerous fights, stampeding, open drug use and customers with guns.

Citing inadequate security, Tim Mossholder, district youth representative for the church, said that members of its 240 congregations have vowed not to return to the park until Magic Mountain takes steps to ensure customers’ safety.

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“I can hardly find the words to express the absolute chaos and violence that was allowed to go on within Magic Mountain park on Saturday, May 30,” Mossholder wrote in a five-page letter sent to Magic Mountain, news organizations and local government offices. “I was personally in the park with my wife and three young children. I have never been so fearful for their physical well-being as I was that day.”

In the biggest show of police force at the park in five years, more than 60 sheriff’s deputies from as far as Lancaster and La Crescenta were called in after reports of widespread fighting and possible gunfire at the park that day, when attendance hit 37,000, the largest crowd so far this year.

Sheriff’s deputies never actually entered the park grounds and later said that they may have overreacted to what turned out to be a series of relatively minor scrapes. However, several people who were in the park that day said earlier that the disturbances were far more serious than Magic Mountain officials said.

According to Mossholder, among the more than 1,400 Foursquare church members present was a group leader who said he saw two guns being drawn by patrons and a girl who thought she saw someone stabbed during a fight.

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In one of the numerous fights witnessed by group members, Mossholder said, a man was hit over the head with a trash can and then swarmed and kicked by members of a rival group. Several other group members reported receiving bruises when they were caught in stampedes of people fleeing fights.

In addition, Mossholder said, groups of youths were openly smoking marijuana throughout the park and Magic Mountain employees did nothing to stop them.

“I turned and asked [Magic Mountain employees], ‘Are you going to just let them blow ‘bud’ in your face?’ ” Mossholder said. “The employees then turned as if they were going to address the problem, but actually just kept walking and did nothing to stop this illegal activity.”

Sheriff’s officials said there was no evidence of shots being fired or anyone being stabbed in the park that day.

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Following the disturbance, sheriff’s officials praised Magic Mountain for improving security since an occurrence in 1993 in which people were injured and local businesses damaged by an unruly mob that spilled out of the park and onto nearby streets.

Park spokesman Andy Gallardo said that Magic Mountain regrets the incidents that occurred, but that there is no evidence they were as serious as Mossholder contends.

“Obviously this gentleman had a very unpleasant experience, and we are very sorry for that,” Gallardo said. “It was a very busy day and there were some rowdy kids. We took the appropriate steps to have them removed from the park.”

But Mossholder said Magic Mountain officials are being evasive about the extent of problems at the park.

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“We feel they are misrepresenting what happened,” he said. “They’re spinning it in a way that is different from the actual events.”

“The thing is, we really do want to come back,” Mossholder said. “We just want it to be a safe place, not just for us, but for all the young people in Southern California.”


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