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Individuals charged in fights that delayed Worthington Learning Center graduation ceremony

Charges filed on Friday identified eight adults who were involved in the fighting that broke out ahead of the Worthington Learning Center's graduation ceremony on May 26.

Just prior to the graduation ceremony's scheduled start, a chaotic series of fights broke out at the Learning Center Thursday, May 26, 2022. Some individuals held on to their friends and relatives in order to stop them from engaging in the scuffle, as shown.
Just prior to the graduation ceremony's scheduled start, a chaotic series of fights broke out at the Learning Center Thursday, May 26, 2022. Some individuals held on to their friends and relatives in order to stop them from engaging in the scuffle, as shown.
Kari Lucin / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — Charges were filed Friday against eight adults reportedly involved in a series of physical altercations that delayed a graduation ceremony at Worthington’s Learning Center back in May.

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The case was turned over to the Nobles County Attorney's office, which announced in early July that 16 individuals would be charged in connection with the incident, including eight minors. Charges range from gross misdemeanor third-degree riot — which carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail, a $3,000 fine, or both — to misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

According to a series of criminal complaints, altercations broke out shortly after Bigelow residents Ivan Soto Sosa, 43, and Estevon Diego Soto, 46, entered the gym where the graduation ceremony was being held. Both men are charged with third-degree rioting and disorderly conduct. Soto Sosa also faces two counts of fifth-degree assault, a misdemeanor offense.

Soto Sosa and Diego Soto exchanged words with a group seated near the entrance of the gym including Keey Tobby Phetsarath, 21; Marino Alfredo Torres, 20; Jevon Thammalong, 20 and Jesus Lozano-Avelar, 19, all of Worthington. All four men are charged with misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct. Lozano-Avelar and Thammalong face additional counts of gross misdemeanor rioting and misdemeanor fifth-degree assault.

Fighting reportedly broke out after Soto Sosa punched Phetsarath in the face. At that point, several people converged on the altercation.

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A Worthington Police Officer who was already on-site radioed dispatch to report a large fight at the location.

District 518 personnel and law enforcement attempted to break up the fighting, during which officers reportedly observed 46-year-old Roberto Lazzu Rivera, of Bigelow, repeatedly punching Phetsarath. According to reports, Rivera was observed engaging in physical altercations with numerous people, including Thammalong, Phetsarath, and several unnamed juveniles.

Rivera faces one count of third-degree rioting and three gross misdemeanor counts of fifth-degree assault.

He was eventually subdued by Learning Center Staff and law enforcement, during which time he reportedly grabbed hold of an officer’s radio microphone, resulting in an additional gross misdemeanor charge of obstruction.

Virginia Lazzu, 40, of Bigelow, offered to take Rivera home. She faces a gross misdemeanor count of rioting and a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, after reportedly charging and attempting to hit a juvenile female.

Both Rivera and Lazzu were ordered to leave the gym, along with several other individuals who were involved in the fighting. Outside, fighting again broke out. Thammalong, Rivera, and Rivera’s juvenile son were noted as being involved, according to the criminal complaints. Additional law enforcement arrived.

After being separated, Rivera was arrested and directed to a squad car.

At multiple points, a Worthington Police officer reported drawing his taser, though it was never deployed.

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All involved individuals were issued summons to appear in court, with initial appearances scheduled for August.

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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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