Three white men have been charged with assaulting a Black riverboat captain in Montgomery, Alabama over the weekend. The attack sparked a fight that was captured on video and shared widely on social media.
Montgomery Police Chief Darryl J. Albert announced the charges, and accompanying arrest warrants, at a press conference Tuesday, Aug. 8. The three suspects were identified as Richard Roberts, 48, Allen Todd, 23, and Zachery Shipman, 25. Roberts was hit with two counts of third-degree assault, while Todd and Shipman were hit with one count of third-degree assault each (all charges are misdemeanors).
According to The Birmingham News, Roberts has already turned himself in to authorities in Selma, Alabama. During the press conference, Albert said the two other suspects are expected to turn themselves in to authorities soon.
Albert also singled out another person of interest, Reggie Gray, 42, a Black man seen in several videos appearing to hit people with a folding chair. A warrant hasn’t officially been issued for Gray, though Albert said authorities are asking him “to contact local law enforcement” because “there are more interviews for us to conduct with him.”
The riverfront brawl, which took place on Saturday, Aug. 5, garnered national attention both because of the plethora of videos shared online, but also the distinct racial dynamics of the fight (not to mention Montgomery’s own long history as a focal point for discrimination, racist violence, and the fight for Civil Rights). Albert said Montgomery police had discussed the matter with the FBI and determined there was not enough evidence to file hate crime charges in the case. Similarly, Albert said Montgomery police and local prosecutors did not think the fight fit the criteria for charges of inciting a riot.
The fight broke out after Damien Pickett, co-captain of the Harriott II Riverboat, approached Roberts, Shipman, and Todd, and asked them to move their pontoon, so the riverboat could dock. During the press conference, Albert said the Harriott II first used the boat’s PA system to ask the pontoon to move, but the men in the pontoon responded with “obscene gestures, curse words, and taunting.”
Pickett was then taken to the pier by a smaller boat, so he could discuss the matter with the men. Albert said Pickett approached the pontoon “peacefully,” while the owners of the boat “confronted him in a very hostile manner.”
He continued: “There were words exchanged and then it turned into a fistic encounter that you’ve all seen. The co-captain was doing his job, he was simply trying to move the boat just enough to where the cruise ship could park safely in its identified location.”
While the fight initially involved Pickett and the three men, many others soon joined the brawl. Albert said 13 people were taken in for questioning Saturday night, but all were released pending further investigation.