Plot Thickens in Stadium Lot Scuffle : Probe: A man who was drinking with off-duty officers provoked the incident, witnesses say. ‘This is very complicated,’ says a Newport Beach police spokesman.
Police said Tuesday they are investigating complaints that a postgame scuffle Sunday at Anaheim Stadium involving off-duty police officers was provoked by a man who might have been drinking with officers in the parking lot.
Several people who witnessed or participated in the scuffle said the trouble started when insults were hurled at a man who was collecting aluminum cans after the Rams-Steelers game.
“He whistled and said ‘Here boy’ like I was a dog, and then threw a beer can on the ground,” said Ben Bachelier, 45, of Whittier, who was insulted by the man’s actions.
Newport Beach Police Sgt. Andy Gonis said police are investigating who may have made the comment. He said that person might have been part of a group of Newport Beach police employees who attended the game, but was not an officer. He said the officers only tried to defuse the situation.
“This is a very complicated investigation,” Gonis said. “A large number of people were involved in a rapid succession of events. There were a lot of our officers there and there were also a lot of civilian employees, friends and relatives there too. But not everybody knew each other.”
Bachelier’s son, Anthony, 25, of La Habra, said he came to his father’s defense and shouted back at the man. When it appeared that it might become physical, Bachelier told his son to ignore the group and left the area despite taunts from the individual.
“They were all drunk and belligerent,” Ben Bachelier said.
Another verbal altercation erupted several minutes later when Anthony Bachelier and two friends approached the same group of men. That encounter escalated into a fight. Gonis said an off-duty officer was hit in the mouth while trying to intervene.
He said the department is also looking into the allegations that the officers were drinking alcohol and whether it was a factor in the incident.
During the fight, the off-duty officers pulled out their guns to try to get control of the situation, police said.
Some witnesses, however, said the officers were physically and verbally abusive during the incident.
“They told us we were messing with the wrong . . . people,” said Joey Martinez, 25, of La Habra, who claims the officers punched him, kicked him and trained their guns on him. “They really walloped us.”
The witnesses said they didn’t know if the man who insulted Bachelier was one of the officers.
Two officers and several civilians were injured during the altercation, which lead to the arrest of two men, and ended with an off-duty officer firing at a fleeing car on the freeway at close range.
One man was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly striking an officer with his car during the altercation. That officer sustained cuts, bruises and torn ligaments in his knee.
Anaheim police, who are also looking into the incident, declined to discuss the matter because of their pending investigation.