Riverfront fistfight reaches into Selma, gains national attention

Published 10:29 pm Sunday, August 6, 2023

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A Saturday evening brawl at the Riverfront Park in Montgomery reached out into Selma communities and gained national attention Sunday night, as the Montgomery Police Department announced the issuing of four active warrants in connection with the disturbance. Meanwhile, individuals took to social media to share video and opinions related to the incident.

Onlookers captured video footage of the fight witnesses say may have started when a dock security worker requested boaters relocate a pontoon boat which was blocking the dock so that the Harriet II riverboat could pull into the space. 

Officers reported multiple persons were detained Saturday evening with charges pending. Video footage went viral Sunday showing multiple persons in handcuffs, and throughout Sunday evening, social media commenters bantered back and forth about how the altercation began and who was involved.

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The identities of those detained or for whom warrants were issued have not yet been released, nor have any official motives been established for causing the ruckus. But many social media posts alleged Chase Shipman, the owner of Vasser’s Mini-Mart in Selma, was involved, while others connected a Selma teacher and other community members with the incident. 

Shipman denied taking part in the fight in a social media post Sunday, sharing video and writing, “I do not condone what happened. I tried to stop it and realized that I could not, so I tried to get away. There is a video of me being the first to run away because what was happening was wrong and I did not want to be a part of it… No charges were filed against me because I was not involved. I know it was wrong and it should have never happened.”

A social media post linked Leigh Chappell, a teacher at Sophia P. Kingston Elementary School with the incident but Selma City Schools Superintendent Zickeyous Byrd issued a release Sunday on social media, denying the involvement of any school system employees.

“The Selma City School District is aware of the unfortunate incident that took place yesterday evening on The Harriet II Riverboat dock in Montgomery,” Byrd wrote. “We have fully investigated allegations that one of our employees may have been involved. Based on our findings, there is no evidence to support that a Selma City Schools employee was involved int he incident.”

Late Sunday afternoon, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed commended the swift actions of officers who responded, calling the altercation an “unfortunate incident.”

“Last night, the Montgomery Police Department acted swiftly to detain several reckless individuals for attacking a man who was doing his job,” Reed wrote on social media. “Warrants are being signed and justice will be served.”

“This was an unfortunate incident which never should have occurred,” Reed continued. “As our police department investigates these intolerable actions, we should not become desensitized to violence of any kind in our community. Those who choose violent actions will be held accountable by our criminal justice system.”

Montgomery police officers responded to the scene of the Saturday disturbance around 7 p.m., arriving at the 200 block of Coosa Street where they found a large group of people involved in a physical altercation. Observer videos posted to social media reveal what appears to be a series of events beginning near the Alabama River water’s edge.

One clip shows a Black man who appeared to be a dock worker talking to a shirtless white man who eventually strikes the worker. As the situation unfolds, onlookers attempt to separate the two before others join the fray.

A swimmer, later identified as a 16-year-old by one witness, jumped from a boat and swam towards the dock to help the docks worker. Once the police arrived, multiple parties were questioned, and several were detained with charges pending.

The Montgomery Police Department statement indicated no further updates would be available before Monday afternoon as officers continue reviewing submitted and City surveillance camera footage. The investigation is ongoing, and officers have requested anyone with video of the events submit the footage to them at Starcenter@montgomeryal.gov

This story is developing and will be update as new information becomes available.