Montgomery Police have issued arrest warrants for three people in connection with Saturday’s Riverfront brawl and expect more charges to be filed against others as the investigation continues, MPD Chief Darryl Albert said during a press conference Tuesday.
The brawl, which has captured international attention thanks to dozens of videos shared on social media, was sparked when several white boaters attacked a Black city worker who was attempting to move a pontoon boat so the city’s riverboat, the Harriott II, could dock.
Richard Roberts, 48, Allen Todd, 23, and Zachary Shipman, 25, have all been charged with third-degree assault – a misdemeanor charge – for their roles in attacking both co-captain Damien Pickett and another city employee, a 16-year-old juvenile who was attempting to assist Pickett. All three men charged are from Selma.
Albert said one of the men had surrendered to police in Selma, and he said officials there expected the other two to surrender within an hour of the 1 p.m. press conference.
Albert also said MPD was asking that Reggie Gray, the man who could be seen on video hitting people with a folding chair, to come in for questioning within the next 24 hours.
“This investigation is continuing and we encourage citizens to continue to send us videos of the incident, because we will follow this out to its end,” Albert said. “There could very well be more charges coming as we continue to investigate. We talked with 13 people the night of the incident and we are continuing on with that work.”
Albert said that MPD had explored possibly issuing hate crime charges or charges for inciting a riot, but after speaking with and getting guidance from the FBI and the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, he said those charges could not be made.
While it might not rise to federal crime status, the brawl has certainly garnered more than its share of attention, landing on every national news website and TV news program in the country and attracting attention from celebrities, comedians and professional athletes. The brawl was referenced during a WWE broadcast on Monday. Memes, re-enactments and spoof videos of the incident have dominated pretty much every social media platform since Saturday.
Its appeal is not hard to understand – it’s the rare video where the initial bad actors get immediate retribution, and do so with crowd commentary and in subjectively funny ways. Many of the memes and various video reenactments feature folding chairs, “Aquamayne” references and bat signal spoofs of Pickett’s initial hat toss.
Pickett also has become internet-famous, even as some white apologists attempt to find fault with his actions and the manner in which he may have spoken with the pontoon owners. However, both Albert and the captain of the Harriott II, Jim Kittrell, have debunked those theories.
Albert said that Pickett was merely “doing his job” on Saturday when he moved the pontoon out of the way and was met with hostility from the boaters. And in a lengthy interview on Montgomery’s 93.1 on Tuesday, Kittrell described the boaters as belligerent and hostile almost from the start, and said this was not his first run-in with the group.
Kittrell said he attempted several times to get the boaters to move from the dock area so the Harriott could park and let off the 227 passengers on board. Albert said the docking area is marked and that the Harriott spent some 40-45 minutes idling in the Alabama River waiting on the boats to move.
Kittrell said the pontoon owners responded to his requests to move with obscene gestures and curse words. Even when he threatened to call police, “and they’ll see the alcohol you have in the boat,” the boaters refused to move.
Instead, Kittrell said he engaged with a smaller paddle boat operating in the area and had it take Pickett, his co-captain, to the dock. Once on the dock, Albert said Pickett received only more hostile words from the boaters. So, he decided to untie and move one of the pontoons a few feet down the dock in order to make room for the Harriott.
When he did so, the boat’s owners came charging towards him, Albert said. An angry back-and-forth ensued, ultimately culminating with several of the boaters attacking and repeatedly punching Pickett. Roberts also punched the 16-year-old city employee, who had stepped in trying to break up the assault.
A short time later, the Harriott docked and several of Pickett’s coworkers made their way to confront the boaters. It did not go well for the boaters.
Albert said the investigation will continue for some time and warned against any additional acts of retribution.