Arrest warrants have been issued for three men involved in the chaotic brawl at a riverfront dock in Montgomery, Alabama, on Saturday that was captured on video and involved an array of punches, a chair to the head and several people in the water.
The fight stemmed from a dispute over a dockside parking spot at Riverfront Park between the crew of a large riverboat and the owners of a small private boat, Montgomery Police Chief Darryl J. Albert said Tuesday at a press conference.
Richard Roberts, 48, was charged with two counts of third-degree assault, and Allen Todd, 23, and Zachary Shipman, 25, were each charged with one such count, Albert said. The chief described the three as White men who were connected to the private boat.
One of those men has surrendered and is in custody, and the two others are expected to be in custody soon, Albert said. He did not specify who was in custody.
Third-degree assault is considered a Class A misdemeanor in Alabama and is punishable by up to a year in prison.
The fight largely broke down along racial lines in a city with a fraught history of racial violence. Investigators looked into whether there was enough evidence to charge for a hate crime or inciting a riot, but the actions did not meet the criteria, Albert said.
The victims in the assaults were identified as Damien Pickett, the Black co-captain of the riverboat, and a 16-year-old White male.
Police also asked that a Black man who was seen in video swinging a folding chair contact them for further questioning.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office and the local office of the FBI were all consulted on the charges, according to Albert.
In all, 13 people were detained and questioned for several hours Saturday before being released, the chief said. The chief said the investigation is ongoing and more charges are likely.
Montgomery Police Chief Darryl J. Albert addresses the media on Tuesday after the riverfront brawl.
The chief’s press conference provided further details on the fight that has been widely shared on social media the past few days.
The incident began at about 7 p.m. Saturday when the Harriott II Riverboat, carrying 227 passengers, attempted to dock in its designated and reserved spot along the waterfront. But a private boat was docked in its space, and the boat’s owners responded to requests to move with obscene gestures, curse words and taunting, the chief said.
Pickett, the co-captain, was picked up from the riverboat by another vessel and brought to the dock to try to have a conversation with the boat owners and get them to move, Albert said. There, the boat owners confronted the captain in a “very hostile manner” and then attacked him, as the video shows, the chief said.
“As the co-captain approached the dock and attempted to peacefully move the boat over just enough so that the Harriott could park, the owners of the boat confronted him in a very hostile manner. There were words exchanged, and then it turned into a fist encounter… the co-captain was doing his job,” Albert said.
The fight was “brought on by reckless individuals who did not use good judgment and caused an event that certainly was avoidable,” Mayor Steven Reed said. “That said, the police department reacted very swiftly and very intentionally to address the matter, as did other citizens in the community.”
Lauren Spivey, a witness aboard the riverboat, told CNN they had been waiting about 30 to 45 minutes for the small boat’s owners to come and move it, “but nobody came forward.”
She said an employee eventually went over to the small boat and started untying the vessel, and a man who appeared to be White ran over. Video of the interaction shows the employee and a group of White men got into a heated discussion.
After several minutes, a shirtless White man charged and shoved the employee, who flung his hat into the air, the footage shows. The shirtless man then threw several more punches, and a group of several other White people knocked the worker to the ground and started hitting him, the footage shows. In addition, a young White male wearing a life jacket came over to the scene and was struck by one of the shirtless White men, the video shows.
The fight escalated further, with other groups of people entering the fray, and a person aboard the boat jumped into the water and swam toward the fight, the video shows.
After a short break in the action, there was a second round of fights between the White boaters and a group of Black boat workers, the footage shows.
At one point, a Black man attacked two others with a folding chair, as if competing in a professional wrestling match, before he was detained by police, the footage shows. Another person was knocked off the dock into the water, according to the video.
Montgomery Police said they were called to the scene and found “a large group of subjects engaged in a physical altercation,” according to a Monday news release.
Clayton Thomason, who has worked as a singer and entertainer on the riverboat for 12 years, said Saturday’s fight was disappointing.
“We kept asking them to move the boat. I even made up a song during those 30 to 45 minutes. ‘Move your boat,’” he said. “All they did was shooting birds, shouting profanity. It’s obvious that all they wanted to do was cause a ruckus.”