Jason Blair was visiting Disneyland with his wife and two daughters Saturday when he came upon a large crowd of people in Mickey’s Toontown.
At first, Blair didn’t think anything was amiss. After all, the themed area, which features the homes of Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a cartoon-styled setting, is considered by Disney visitors to be one of the friendliest areas for young children in the theme park.
“People had their cellphones out, so I thought it was a character walking around,” said Blair, a high school football coach and athletic coordinator from El Paso.
Then he heard two women screaming at each other and saw a man wearing a red shirt punching one of the women in the face.
Blair had unwittingly waded into a family altercation that turned into a brawl lasting nearly five minutes, all of which was caught on video.
The Texas resident said he decided to jump into the fray when he saw the man strike one of the women.
“I told him, ‘Get your stuff and get out of here,’” Blair said. “He was ranting and raving, just going off. But hitting a woman is not right, no matter what happened.”
Police responded to the park after the fight. The family involved in the melee was “uncooperative” with authorities and there was no video available at the time, so police did not make any arrests, said Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt.
Authorities launched an investigation after video of the scuffle surfaced on social media Sunday. The Anaheim city attorney will ultimately decide whether anyone in the group will face criminal charges, Wyatt said. The city attorney prosecutes misdemeanor and infraction crimes that occur in Anaheim.
The video quickly went viral, racking up more than 2 million views on YouTube in less than three days.
The profanity-laced video begins with an argument between a man and a woman pushing a stroller with two young girls in front of Goofy’s Playhouse. The man, who is wearing a red shirt, takes the first swing at a woman after she spits in his face, the video shows.
Another man steps in, and the two men in the video start throwing punches at one another. Children are heard crying in the background as the adults continue to scuffle.
A park employee wearing a yellow-and-blue uniform is seen in the background speaking into a headset radio. Disney officials said she was calling for backup. Horrified parkgoers ushered children past the brawl, while others gathered around to watch the melee. A handful of bystanders — including a member of Disney’s cleaning crew and Blair — tried to separate the fighters.
Over the course of nearly five minutes, several members of the family became involved in the fight, the video shows.
A woman riding a motorized scooter, who was also part of the group, tried to intervene but was knocked to the ground. Two people who appear to be family members help her up as the fight continues.
“I’m ready to go to jail tonight,” the man wearing the red shirt is heard yelling in the video.
Blair jumps in again later after the man in the red shirt punches another woman he thought had hit his mother. The video shows the woman being knocked to the ground and the man dragging her by her hair across the pavement. Blair, who is wearing red shorts in the video, was one of four men who pulled the man away from the woman.
Video footage showed Disney’s security team arrived more than three minutes after the fight broke out, a response that has sparked backlash on social media. Some have criticized the park for what they say was a slow response to the violent incident, while others have questioned the overall safety of the park.
Priorities for the theme park’s security department were to secure the perimeter around the fight, keep nearby guests safe, call for police assistance and then intervene to de-escalate the situation, according to Disney officials.
The individuals involved in the scuffle were removed from the park, said Liz Jaeger, a spokeswoman for the Disneyland Resort.
“Any type of violence is inexcusable and will not be tolerated,” Jaeger said. “Disneyland Resort security responded appropriately within minutes and immediately called the Anaheim Police Department for assistance.”
Michael Downing, a retired deputy chief with the Los Angeles Police Department’s counterterrorism unit, said the employee who was first on scene acted correctly by calling for backup and not inserting herself in a fight with a large group of people.
Downing, who is currently the chief security officer with Oak View Group, has done consulting work on building projects for Disney.
“It would be different if it’s a one-on-one fight, but to have five people duking it out, it’s probably going to exacerbate the situation,” he said. “This was a very nasty family dispute, so I think she did everything the right way.”