Three white men have warrants out for their arrest for assault in the third degree, Chief Darryl Albert said Tuesday. They were identified as Richard Roberts, 48, Allen Todd, 23, and Zachery Shipman, 25, who all have listed addresses in nearby Selma and Orange Beach.
One of the men is in custody and two others were expected to turn themselves in later Tuesday in Selma, Albert said. Investigators went “above and beyond” to see if hate crime charges were warranted but ultimately decided they weren’t, Albert said.
The three men are accused of assaulting Damien Pickett, the Black riverboat worker who had asked the men to move their pontoon boat, as well as a 16-year-old white boy who had initially transported Pickett to the dock via a smaller vessel so that he could move the pontoon.
Albert also called on Reggie Gray, a 42-year-old Black man accused of “wielding a folding chair” in the chaos, to contact police. He was not facing charges as of Tuesday, but Albert said he’s wanted for further questioning.
Thirteen people were initially detained, questioned, and released by police on Saturday. But cops were now combing through hoards of video posted online and expect additional charges, Albert said. “When it initially took place, the police didn’t have the luxury of the videos that we all have seen now. [They were] acting on statements and witness statements that occurred as we arrived,” he said.
Albert also explained what preceded the fracas, largely confirming what the riverboat’s captain, Jim Kittrell, explained to The Daily Beast on Tuesday.
Kittrell said that he was trying to dock the Harriott II—a historic ferry on the Alabama river—around 7 p.m. Saturday when he came across an inebriated group who’d docked their pontoon boat in the ferry’s reserved spot.
“I asked them over the PA six, seven times, ‘Please move your boat two or three feet forward so we can dock.’ And they wouldn’t even budge,” he said. “And I said, ‘OK, I’m gonna have to call the police.’” Albert added that the Harriott II and its passengers sat idle near the dock for about 45 minutes.
Before cops arrived, Kittrell said the group of men walked away from their boat, so he ordered his first mate, Pickett, to move the vessel himself. Pickett was taken to shore in a small boat by the 16-year-old independent worker, who was also later assaulted.
Albert said Pickett was “peacefully” trying to move the unmanned pontoon boat out of the way but the group of white men suddenly re-appeared and confronted him in a “very hostile manner.”
“The co-captain [Pickett] was doing his job,” Albert said. “However it quickly escalated.”
As the viral footage has since shown, one of the white men pounced on Pickett after a short verbal exchange. Kittrell said some of his remaining crew then jumped into action to help their colleague and other bystanders did the same, resulting in a minutes-long brawl. One teen, since dubbed Black Aquaman, even swam to the rescue.
“Within a minute or so, it was an all-out brawl,” he told local radio station News & Views with Joey Clark on Tuesday. “I saw some more guys coming, and I said, ‘Oh, thank God, they’re going to break it up,’ but instead of breaking it up, they jumped on him, too.”
As more people swooped in to avenge the outnumbered worker, the tables turned. From then on, it was clear the initial group of aggressors took the brunt of the beating.
Kittrell called the entire ordeal “unfortunate.” While punches were being thrown by both sides, he said he pleaded over the PA for the violence to stop.
He told The Daily Beast that he believes the initial attack on Pickett was racially motivated. But going against speculation online, he said he didn’t think race was a factor in the subsequent brawl, despite cell phone footage showing it was predominantly a fight between the white instigators and a group of Black bystanders, riverboat crew members, and passengers.
“It was just a shipmate trying to help a shipmate. They could’ve been little green men, for all they cared,” he said. “When they attacked [Pickett], my crew was gonna jump out and do the best they could to help him out. It was my crew against the people who attacked their shipmate, that’s all it was.”
Local officials described the scene similarly. Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, the city’s first Black mayor, said in a statement Sunday that officers “acted swiftly to detain several reckless individuals for attacking a man who was doing his job.”
The Harriott II is one of Montgomery’s top attractions for tourists and locals alike. The city’s paper of record, the Montgomery Advertiser, wrote on Sunday that the docking area where the brawl broke out “is the regular spot reserved for the Harriott II Riverboat,” suggesting those with the pontoon boat should’ve known better than to dock there.
“We’re a fun city,” Albert said Tuesday. “We don’t want this type of activity to shine a dark eye on what the city is all about. We’re going to do all we can to do our due diligence to ensure that this case is solved and put to rest.”