Detective explains grainy footage of bar brawl

2012-10-19T00:00:00Z 2013-09-10T17:08:00Z Detective explains grainy footage of bar brawlKimberly Matas Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 19, 2012 12:00 am  • 

In the early moments of the grainy black-and-white video, a group of men gathered on the sidewalk outside a bar near downtown appear to be engaged in good-natured horseplay.

But the scene quickly turns serious when one of the trio walks up to a bicyclist and, without provocation, punches him in the head.

"Based on our investigation and our interviews of everyone, prior to that first assault there was no kind of exchange between them," said Tucson Police Detective Olga Ramirez.

A surveillance camera outside The Buffet bar, 538 E. Ninth St., captured footage of the Sept. 19 incident. It was released by the Tucson Police Department Wednesday.

The nearly seven minutes of video shows a brutal attack instigated by now-fired corrections officers from the Pima County jail. Seven corrections officers were arrested - five in connection with the attack and two, including a sergeant, for hindering prosecution. Several have pleaded not guilty in Pima County Superior Court.

The video shows several corrections officers coming out of The Buffet just before 2 a.m. and roughhousing among themselves before attacking a man trying to unlock his bicycle parked at a rack next to the bar. Ultimately, at least four people, including a teen, were attacked by the corrections officers.

"They were kind of horseplaying out there, then you can see the first victim coming out to unlock his bike. They continue their playing around, then all of a sudden you see he gets a wop on the back of the head by one of that group," Ramirez said of the video showing a man hitting the bicyclist.

After the first punch, the man's buddies pull him away from the bicyclist, but it appears a verbal altercation continues. As the bicyclist goes into the bar for help, a few more corrections officers emerge from The Buffet.

"The victim goes back inside, based on the fact that he's outnumbered and he wants to leave, and he calls to a friend. As soon as the friend comes out they all kind of converge on the two men," Ramirez said.

"The first victim, the bike victim, you lose sight of him because he runs westwardly. The second victim runs towards him to assist him. That's the man you see laying on the ground," she said.

While some of the men continue to kick and punch the man on the ground, a second group breaks away to chase down the bicyclist, who disappears from the camera frame. "He's actually grabbed by the hair and drug away from the camera," Ramirez said.

The video shows the victim who is lying in the gutter next to the bar try to escape, but when he gets up he stumbles just a few yards before the attackers again pounce and beat him into unconsciousness.

"You see the person with the flashlight, that is the bouncer who is trying to protect them and keep them away, but because of the numbers he's kind of apprehensive. He calls 911 and gets police there quickly and that's why they scatter. They realize the police are responding," the detective said of the activity shown near the end of the video.

"Between that time when both of these guys are down on the ground and are being beaten, the other two victims come out and verbally try to tell them to stop," she said of a father and teenage son who live across the street from the bar. "Once the father gets struck, his son is also struck even after being told, 'Leave my son alone. He's only 17.' "

When paramedics arrived, there was "a substantial amount of blood," Ramirez said, and the scene had to be hosed down.

"What you see is exactly what happened. It was incredible for us to absorb it all. It was brutal," Ramirez said.

At least a dozen off-duty corrections officers were at the bar before the attack. Most were regulars at The Buffet, so staffers knew their names. With the aid of security video from inside the bar, investigators were able to identify those who participated in the beatings, Ramirez said.

The seven corrections officers arrested in the attacks were fired by the Pima County Sheriff's Department, said a spokesman, Deputy Tom Peine. Those fired were: Yvonne Davis, 33; Mark Bret, 23; Anthony Bonfiglio, 25; Matthew Garcia, 24; John Hyatt, 30; Angel Castaneda, 23; and Steven Haglund, 26.

The investigation is ongoing, but no more arrests are expected, said Sgt. Chris Widmer, a TPD spokesman.

On StarNet:

See the security camera footage of the fight at azstarnet.com/video

"Based on our investigation and our interviews of everyone, prior to that first assault there was no kind of exchange between them."

Olga Ramirez

Tucson Police detective

Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at kmatas@azstarnet.com or at 573-4191.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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