New Jersey Man Charged In Philly Wedding Day Brawl
UPDATED 10/08/12 5:38 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA (CBSNewYork/AP) – It was a wedding nightmare over the weekend, when an all-out brawl erupted among close to 200 wedding guests.
As CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian reports, the fight, which was caught on video and quickly spread online, happened early Sunday at the Society Hill Sheraton Hotel in Philadelphia. On Monday night, a brother of one of the grooms was under arrest.
Police said at least two separate wedding parties were involved in the fight, which began in the lobby before spilling out into the street, CBS Philly reported. One group of guests had just returned to the hotel after an off-site reception, the station reported.
Dozens of police were called in to attempt to control the melee.
The altercation was caught on video by Max Schultz, a 15-year-old from Camp Hill in central Pennsylvania, who was in Philadelphia with his parents to see the historic sites and celebrate his birthday. Schultz said he was sleeping when noise from the fight awoke him and he went to check it out around 2 a.m.
“It started getting louder and I thought it doesn’t sound like they’re having fun anymore, I better go out and watch,” Schultz said.
He went to an atrium where he looked down on the fight, took out his cell phone and began recording it — after he had to frantically start deleting files so he had enough memory for the video of people sparring while wearing tuxedos and ball gowns.
“I just saw a lot of people going at it,” said Schultz, who later posted the video on YouTube. “It was obviously pretty chaotic.”
Schultz could not explain what prompted the brawl.
“I mean, I don’t know what started it, but I think they all had too much to drink, and it does that to people,” he said.
Schultz’s video documents ear-piercing shrieks as a police baton whips a tuxedo-clad man, and holds back a hysterical bride trying to rush to his aide.
Later, bride Nicole Sanutti from Jersey City was seen running toward an ambulance. Her 57-year-old uncle apparently suffered a heart attack and died.
Authorities don’t know if he was involved in the fights.
“We just spoke to them a few days ago, and they were very excited and happy,” said neighbor Laurie Cieckiewicz.
She said Sanutti – a human resources manager at Credit Suisse – and her groom, Michael Sofka – had it all.
“Happy, nice, excited, good looking – the whole nine yards,” Cieckiewicz said.
No one answered the door at the couple’s Jersey City apartment Monday.
Sofka’s parents live in Westfield, N.J. Neighbors said the last time they saw him, family members were dropping off their cars and excitedly headed to Philadelphia for what was supposed to be a fabulous weekend.
“I’m sure whatever happened, it’s not their fault, because these people are one of the best people on the block,” Cieckiewicz said.
The groom’s brother – Matthew Sofka, 26 – now stands charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and other counts in connection with the fight, said police spokesman Lt. Raymond Evers.
Two other people were cited for disorderly conduct.
The investigation is continuing and police expect more arrests in the future, Evers said. Investigators don’t know what started the brawl, but they say alcohol was involved.
“The situation could have been much worse if (the police) hadn’t been there,” Ever said. “I think they did what they had to do to keep people under control.”
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)