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3 charged with assault in Alabama riverfront melee; no bias charges

Christa Owen

(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) — Charges were filed against three white boaters who allegedly assaulted a Black ferry co-captain, sparking a racially charged melee at Riverfront Park in Montgomery, Alabama, on Saturday night that was captured on bystander videos that went viral.

Montgomery Police Department Chief Darryl Albert identified the victims in this case as co-captain of the Harriet II and dock employee Damien Pickett, a Black male. He also mentioned an unnamed 16-year-old white male who was allegedly struck by the owners and operators of the private boat that was blocking the riverboat from docking.

Richard Roberts, a 48-year-old white male, is facing two outstanding warrants for assault in the third degree, Allan Todd, a 23-year-old white male is facing one warrant for assault in the third degree and Zachary Shipman, a 25-year-old white male, is facing one warrant for assault in the third degree.

Police told ABC News that as of Tuesday evening, only one of the three suspects has turned himself in. ABC News’ attempts to reach out to the suspects directly were unsuccessful. It is unclear if they have retained legal representation.

Albert also said that police are seeking further interviews with a man who was allegedly seen in bystander videos wielding a folding chair.

Asked if there’s any evidence of a hate crime, Albert said that police “looked at every avenue” and left “no stone unturned,” but “were unable to present any insight in a riot or racial racially biased charges at this time.”

The charges came after police issued four arrest warrants related to the incident and told ABC News in a statement on Monday that additional arrests could come as police continue to review video evidence of the incident.

Police said officers responded to a disturbance on the 200 block of Coosa Street around 7 p.m. Saturday, where they found a large group of people engaged in a physical altercation and several were detained at the scene.

According to videos captured by bystanders and obtained by ABC News, the fight appeared to begin after a white man punched Pickett. Several other white individuals joined the altercation, which seemed to set off a brawl between those individuals, Pickett and bystanders. Other videos captured by onlookers show that bystanders joined the brawl in an apparent attempt to defend the co-captain, with one man seen swimming to the dock from a riverboat.

According to a witness who captured video of the incident, the assault and subsequent brawl came amid a reported dispute over a pontoon boat that was blocking a space of a riverboat.

The witness, Christa Owen, told ABC News Monday that she was on a dinner cruise on the riverboat with her 12-year-old daughter when the incident occurred. She said that after the owners of the pontoon boat were asked multiple times to move the boat but they “refused,” so the crew member got off the boat and tried to move the pontoon boat himself.

“The black pontoon boat parked where the ferry parks. They wouldn’t move when we were trying to pull in. It seems what these guys wanted trumped what a couple hundred people on a stranded ferry needed,” Owen said, adding that prior to the brawl, the people on her boat repeatedly asked the people on the pontoon boat to move.

She added, “They just looked at us, decided not to [move the pontoon boat], shrugged their shoulders and left. That’s when a crewman disembarked onto a small boat to the dock to do it.”

Owen said a couple of hundred people were “stranded on water” until the pontoon boat was moved.

ABC News’ Ben Stein, Kerem Inal and Armando Garcia contributed to this report.

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