Closing at the Cavan Cafe, 1406 Hyde Park Ave., seemed to be going normally early on Jan. 13: Sure, people kept pulling into the parking lot after 1 a.m. thinking they could get a drink even though the bar has a 1 a.m. closing time, but that's par for the course. Except this time, the cars kept coming, even as people were leaving from a large party inside. Men started bellowing at each other. And soon, fights were breaking out all over the parking lot and the two cops who initially responded had to call for reinforcements and whip out their pepper spray to try to get things under control.
At a Boston Licensing Board hearing on the Jan. 13 incident, a BPD sergeant said a man was so incensed at being doused with the spray he came after one of the cops with a closed fist; the cop this time sprayed him right in the face - which made him more docile - until he was in an ambulance getting treated for the exposure when he roared out and came at what was now a cluster of cops demanding to know where the cop who sprayed him was: "Where is he? I'll fucking kill him!" Instead, the officers - including the one who'd sprayed him, managed to get him into a cruiser to await a ride to District E-18 for booking.
According to police and the bartender on duty that night, the evening was completely uneventful - 92 or so customers, most in a private party, dutifully filed out between last call at 12:30 p.m. and closing, many going to their cars in the bar parking lot down B Street. The bartender said she noticed people continuing to pull into the parking lot, but that wasn't unusual because for some reason a lot of people seem to think the Cavan is open until 2 a.m. - and part of her job includes standing at the front door at closing to prevent loitering and turn away people who show up at, oh, 1:05 a.m.
Around 1:20 a.m., though, somebody called 911 to report a large fight in the parking lot in which some people had guns. Two officers rushed to the scene and found no guns, but lots of angry yelling guys, at least 50 of them, all seemingly incensed at each other. As they walked towards the parking lot, the verbal turned physical and small knots of people began brawling. Outnumbered - and still not sure that nobody actually had a gun - one of the officers yelled orders to disperse. He was ignored. He got out his OC canister and yelled he was going to use it if people didn't leave. They didn't, so he did.
That was enough to get one man to break off his fisticuffs and turn towards the officer: "Don't you fucking try to spray me with that shit!" he yelled and approached the officer with a balled fist, according to a police report. The officer then sprayed him in the face: "The suspect immediately sat down and was compliant."
By this time,reinforcements were beginning to arrive - officers eventually came from both District E-18 and neighboring districts - but the fighting continued. The guy with the problem with the pepper spray, now in the back of an ambulance getting treatment, resisted efforts by other people - possibly his friends and family - to calm down and jumped out and rushed officers.
That man turned out to be the only one charged - with being a disorderly person. At the hearing, the officer who sprayed him said he and his fellow officers at the time were more concerned with just trying to break up all the fights and get people to leave and didn't have the time to try to actually arrest combatants.
The board decides Thursday whether the bar, one of just two neighborhood watering holes left in all of Hyde Park, could have prevented the incident and, if so, whether it warrants any sort of punishment.