Men attacked Alabama boat co-captain for ‘just doing my job,’ he says

Aug 11, 2023, 4:48 PM

The Harriott II riverboat sits docked in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023. A riverfront b...

The Harriott II riverboat sits docked in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023. A riverfront brawl occurred on Aug. 5 when a crew member was punched for trying to move a pontoon boat that was blocking the riverboat from docking. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)

(AP Photo/Kim Chandler)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama boat co-captain was hanging on “for dear life” as men punched and tackled him on the capital city’s riverfront, he told police after video of the brawl circulated widely online.

Dameion Pickett, a crew member of the Harriott II in Montgomery, described the brawl in a handwritten statement to authorities included in court documents, saying he was attacked after moving a pontoon boat a few feet so the city-owned riverboat could dock.

Four white boaters have been charged with misdemeanor assault in the attack against Pickett, who is Black, as well as a teen deckhand, who was punched and is white. The deckhand’s mother heard a racial slur before Pickett was hit, she wrote in a statement.

A fifth person, a Black man who appeared to be hitting people with a folding chair during the subsequent fight, has been charged with disorderly conduct, police announced Friday.

Video of the melee sparked scores of memes and video reenactments.

Pickett told police that the captain had asked a group on a pontoon boat “at least five or six times” to move from the riverboat’s designated docking space but they responded by “giving us the finger and packing up to leave.” Pickett and another deckhand eventually took a vessel to shore and moved the pontoon boat “three steps to the right,” he wrote.

He said two people ran rushing back, including one cursing and threatening to beat him for touching the boat. Pickett wrote that one of the men shouted that it was public dock space, but Pickett told them it was the city’s designated space for the riverboat. He said he told them he was “just doing my job.” Pickett said he was punched in the face and hit from behind. Pickett said.

“I went to the ground. I think I bit one of them. All I can hear Imma kill you” and beat you, he wrote. He couldn’t tell “how long it lasted” and “grabbed one of them and just held on for dear life,” Pickett wrote.

After the fight was over Pickett said he apologized to the riverboat customers for the inconvenience as he helped them get off the boat.

The deckhand had gone with Pickett to move the pontoon boat. His mother, who was also on the Harriott, said in a statement to police that her son tried to pull the men off Pickett and was punched in the chest.

Darron Hendley, an attorney listed in court records for two of the people charged, declined to comment. It was not immediately clear if the others had an attorney to speak on their behalf.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said Friday that the investigation is ongoing.

Police said they consulted with the FBI and determined what happened on the riverfront did not qualify as a hate crime. Reed, the city’s first Black mayor, said he will trust the investigative process, but said his “perspective as a Black man in Montgomery differs from my perspective as mayor.”

“From what we’ve seen from the history of our city — a place tied to both the pain and the progress of this nation – it seems to meet the moral definition of a crime fueled by hate, and this kind of violence cannot go unchecked,” Reed said. “It is a threat to the durability of our democracy, and we are grateful to our law enforcement professionals, partner organizations and the greater community for helping us ensure justice will prevail.”

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Men attacked Alabama boat co-captain for ‘just doing my job,’ he says