A meddlesome bouncer from a North End lounge may have sparked what one police officer called a "riot-like situation" outside Umbria Prime and Ascend Nightclub several blocks away early on Sept. 25, police and Ascend managers said today.
Before the brawl outside the Franklin Street EDM nightspot was over, one police officer was sucker punched twice in the head, a police sergeant got a fist to the nose and mouth and two other officers were also injured enough to require a trip to a local ER, police say. Five people, including the bouncer, from the Living Room on Atlantic Avenue, were arrested on various charges, including assault and battery on a police officer and affray.
Police Officer Michael Bulger, testifying this morning before the Boston Licensing Board, said he was about a block away, investigating a possible car break-in around 2 a.m., when he noticed angry people outside Ascend's entrance on Wendell Street.
As he drove over to investigate that, the Living Room bouncer ran up to him and pointed to a group of people among whom, he claimed was somebody who had stolen his girlfriend's phone inside Ascend; the man had rushed over from the Living Room when his girlfriend called him. Then the man went over to the groups and all hell broke loose, as more women joined the scene and they and their male acquaintances began brawling, Bulger said.
Bulger waded in - and said the Living Room bouncer punched him twice in the nose, then fled down Batterymarch. Joined by several Ascend bouncers, Bulger chased him and caught up with him - after the guy slipped and fell. Club bouncers - and two barbacks - then held the man down until Bulger and other officers could cuff him - Ascend managers said.
Meanwhile, other officers arriving on scene found themselves in what Bulger called "a riot-like situation" at one point involving up to 100 people. Sgt. John Doris said he arrived around 2:17 a.m. and that not long after he got punched twice, giving him a split lip and a bloody nose that forced him to the hospital, in part because the bloody nose made it difficult to breathe.
Another officer had just arrested a screaming woman and put her in the back of a cruiser when a pal opened the door and let the handcuffed woman get out, police said. She was put back in the cruiser and he was put under arrest himself, they added.
Sgt. William Gallagher said it took all of downtown's uniformed officers, with help from officers from Charlestown and South Boston, to quell the violence. Although Bulger returned to work to write a report on the incident, he said the emergency-room doctor told him his hematoma was serious enough to warrant taking a couple days off work.
Club managers, busy at the time with escorting patrons out at closing, said they discovered the brewing brawl when it was still just verbal jousting. Roughly six of the club's 16 bouncers had already converged on Wendell and seemed to be calming things down when the Living Room bouncer arrived, club manager Joseph DePietro said.
But, then, after talking to Bulger, the bouncer went over to the group he accused of knowing about his girlfriend's phone and started stirring things up, he said. As the yelling intensified, DePietro said he kept his eye on one guy in that group who was being "very, very quiet," because in his experience he's found that "those are the people you watch for, they're just waiting to do something." Sure enough, he said, a moment or two later, "they started attacking each other."
Through his questioning, Ascend attorney Bill Kelly attempted to show that Ascend staffers did everything they could to quell the incident - even to the point of running after the guy accused of punching Bulger - and that the man who spurred the fighting was never inside the club. The licensing board decides Thursday whether to accept that argument or whether it shares any blame for it.