Family says 7-year-old was attacked at fitness center

Police investigate alleged incident

By Jennifer Bauer - Reporter

SUGAR LAND - A Sugar Land father contacted the police after an incident at a fitness center left his 7-year-old daughter too terrified to go back.

"I don't think it was horseplay," said Michael Vowell.  "I think she was being bullied."

Vowell's daughter, Orah, told Local 2 a group of boys surrounded her and pretended to stab her with fake knives, shock her with a fake taser and even shoot her with a toy gun while she played in the playscape area at Lifetime Fitness on Highway 6 in Sugar Land.

"He aimed it right at my face and was shooting it," the 7-year-old said.

The boys may have been playing but now the third grader is afraid to go back there.

"I was scared, I was shaking after it," she said.

"They took a rubber band, you know the rubber bracelets that the kids wear, they took it and and hogtied her hands, and then picked her up and threw her down some tubes," Vowell said.  

Vowell said Lifetime Fitness wouldn't answer his questions about safety. He wanted to know what they plan to do in the future to insure something like this doesn't happen again.

"I'm just somebody who wants answers," he said.  "I want my daughter to be safe and other children to be safe."

In a statement, a spokesperson for Lifetime Fitness told Local 2, they're "committed to upholding safe, fun, family oriented environments."

Lifetime Fitness called it a case of mutual play and said a group of children were playing a game that staff members chose to suspend.

The Sugar Land Police Department also looked into the incident and said all of the children involved were suspended from the fitness center for one day. There was an incident report filed but no criminal intent was discovered. 

The Vowells said they'll likely look for a new gym, someplace where their daughter can feel safe.

"That was my key question I asked them," said Vowell.  "Can you guarantee my child's safety? And they just said they could not guarantee it.  As a parent I need better than that."

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