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Brawl Starts After Boaters Attack Employee

14 Aug, 2023 Liz Carey

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Montgomery, AL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Several people are under arrest following a brawl out on an Alabama dock after white boaters attacked a black riverboat worker.

Video of the brawl has circulated on the internet showing a group of white people attacking the employee before black witnesses to the event came to his defense.

The incident started on August 5 when the riverboat Harriott II tried to dock on the Gun Island Chute portion of the Alabama River. According to Montgomery Police Department Chief Darryl J. Albert, the riverboat was blocked from docking because of a pontoon boat parked in the area designated for riverboats. During a Tuesday press conference, Albert said the captain of the riverboat tried for 45 minutes via the public announcement service to contact the owners of the pontoon boat to get them to move so the Harriott II could allow its 227 passenger to disembark.

Albert said the pontoon boat owners responded to the captain’s announcements with “gestures, curse words and taunting.”

When the captain’s announcements failed to get the pontoon boat’s owners to move, Damien Pickett, the riverboat’s co-captain, drove a boat to the dock to talk to the boat’s owners. When talking failed, Pickett tried to move the pontoon boat enough to allow the riverboat to dock. The pontoon boat’s owners confronted Pickett and attacked him, the police chief said.

“The co-captain was doing his job,” Albert said.

At one point, it appears in the video that as many as 7 men were around Pickett pushing and swinging at him. One of the white men is seen in the video punching Pickett who was also jumped on, beaten and kicked by the other white boaters. Once of this attackers appears to attempt to put Pickett in a headlock.

When the pontoon boat owners attacked Pickett, members of the Harriott’s crew came to his defense, Albert said. As seen on video, an all-out brawl ensued. Six riverboat employees confronted three white men and at least three white women who continued to attack Pickett. One of the riverboat employees appeared to jump off the riverboat and swim to the dock to defend Pickett. Passengers on the riverboat can be heard in the video yelling for someone to help Pickett.

In the melee that ensued, at least two of the women ended up in the river, and a third was beaten over the head with a folding chair. When police arrived to calm the situation down, another fight arose between the owners of the pontoon boat and bystanders.

Albert said on the day of the incident, 13 people were detained. After questioning, those detained were released, but later four arrest warrants were issued for the individuals involved. Richard Roberts, 48, was charged with two counts of assault in the third degree. Mary Todd, 21; Allen Todd, 23; and Zachary Shipman, 25, were also charged with assault in the third degree.

Mary Todd was taken into custody on Thursday. Roberts was taken into custody on Tuesday. Allen Todd and Shipman were also taken into custody earlier this week.

Pickett was taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries. Another Harriott II employee, a white 16-year-old boy who had transported Pickett to the dock, was attacked in the brawl, but no injuries for him were reported.

According to police reports, one witness said the young man was punched in the chest as he tried to “pull people off” Pickett. Video shows the young man was also knocked to the ground and struck by several of the attackers. The witness said another man in the group said he was going to get his gun, but was tackled by another employee of the riverboat.

The investigation into the brawl isn’t finished, Albert said.

“We have hundreds of videos and witness statements at this time, and I would say at this point it is highly likely that more arrests and more individuals will face charges,” Albert told CNN.

Albert said Pickett did not believe the incident was racially motivated.

“We believe what he is saying, and what he is saying is that he does not believe it was racially motivated whatsoever,” Albert told CNN. “If more evidence comes forward. If there’s more proof that this leaned toward more of a hate crime, we will amend those charges and charge appropriately then.”

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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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