Southampton Village Police used pepper spray to disperse a brawling crowd at 230 Elm, a Southampton Village catering hall on Elm Street, early Saturday morning, as patrons fought, threw chairs and pushed one another down the outside stairs, according to police.
One man was arrested, and additional arrests are possible, they said.
Police said there were about 300 people at the hall, although not all of them were involved in the brawl.
Mayor Mark Epley said he has requested a report on the incident from police after neighbors complained to him about noise and one man complained about getting pepper-sprayed on the arm.
Police said a security guard came running out of 230 Elm on Elm Street shortly after 3 a.m. on Saturday, yelling, “We need you guys in there now! There is a huge fight. We need help.” Officers had originally responded to the bar at about 2 a.m. for a noise complaint. Security had already removed a man for fighting with another patron but allowed him to return a short time later. Police said they stayed nearby because of the large crowd inside and the potential for further violence.
Once the security guard asked for help, police ran to the front door but could not enter, they said, because of the large number of people fighting in the vestibule.
A large crowd then poured outside. “All were fighting. Chairs were being thrown, and both men and women were being pushed down the cement stairs,” the police report of the incident stated.
Officers said that they sprayed several canisters of pepper spray and a pepper ball gun after the crowd did not comply with orders to disperse. “Numerous smaller fights” continued in the street and in front of 230 Elm, police said. Town Police responded to back up Village Police, along with New York State Police and Westhampton Beach Village Police. East Hampton Town Police were on standby at the town line.
When Michael N. Lacy, 20, of Southampton was asked to leave, he ran past officers back inside the club with his shirt over his face, they said. He then came back out and charged toward officers, cursing and inciting the crowd, police said.
Police said there was nothing to indicate that Mr. Lacy was one of the men involved in the initial fight, and they could not say what first sparked the altercation.
Mr. Lacy was arrested at 3:50 a.m. and charged with rioting in the second degree, resisting arrest, criminal mischief in the fourth degree and obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, all misdemeanors, and two counts of disorderly conduct, a violation. The mischief charge came from his damaging a Southampton Town Police vehicle by kicking its door and window.
He was taken to Southampton Hospital because he had to be subdued with pepper spray. “We take everybody to the hospital if we pepper-spray them, if we can,” Southampton Village Police Chief Thomas Cummings said.
Mr. Lacy was then taken to Suffolk County Jail in Riverside in lieu of $2,500 bail following his Saturday morning arraignment in Southampton Village Justice Court. He is due back in court on Monday, September 12.
Several Village Police officers were also exposed to the spray, and Village Police Officer Michael Horstman injured his left thumb during the altercation with Mr. Lacy, according to police. Officer Horstman went to Southampton Hospital for testing. He is currently out of work because of the injury for seven days, pending medical test results, police said.
The owner of 230 Elm, Tim Burke, who was present that morning, was ticketed for noise violations for that incident and later that weekend as well, police said. Mr. Burke said he was upset that police used pepper spray, but he would not offer an alternative suggestion. “I felt it exacerbated the situation. It also forced people back inside the building,” he said.
One patron who was at 230 Elm at the time of the commotion, Tunica West, criticized police’s handling of the incident. Ms. West said that she and other patrons, who were there for a party featuring DJ Capri, were trying to exit the club to get away from the fight, but were forced back inside when police pepper-sprayed them, which, she claimed, was done without warning. Police said they resorted to using pepper spray when verbal commands were not followed.
“When I was finally able to get outside, you couldn’t get outside, because [an officer] Maced us, and we had to run back in toward the violence,” Ms. West said. “A lot of people’s clothes got ruined. People got burned in their faces. I got hit directly in my eye, up my nose. I swallowed some of it, and I have an asthma condition.”