WEDDING CRASHERS: Dozens brawl in hotel after Society Hill ceremony

A still image from a video posted to YouTube shows the melee that erupted at the Society Hill Sheraton early Sunday among the attendees of two weddings. Three people were arrested and one man died of a heart attack.
A still image from a video posted to YouTube shows the melee that erupted at the Society Hill Sheraton early Sunday among the attendees of two weddings. Three people were arrested and one man died of a heart attack. (VIDEO COURTESY OF MAX SCHULTZ)
Posted: October 09, 2012

THEY SAY a bride on her wedding day should wear "something blue" for good luck. For attendees from two weddings over the weekend in Society Hill, more than one thing was blue and none of it was lucky.

Guests became black-and-blue fighting with each other - and with the officers in blue who arrived at the Society Hill Sheraton early Sunday to break up the brawl. One man had a fatal heart attack and three people were arrested.

Part of the melee, which spilled into the hotel's lobby, was captured on an iPhone by a boy from Camp Hill, Cumberland County, who was in the city for his 15th birthday. He uploaded the video to YouTube on Sunday and by midnight, it had received hundreds of views.

"I told him, 'Wow, you're not going to forget this birthday!' " said Max Schultz's mother, Sue.

According to police, the donnybrook began when some of the guests in a wedding reception at the hotel, on Dock Street near 2nd, went to the hotel bar and began fighting among themselves.

Then, people who had attended a wedding at another venue but were staying at the Sheraton arrived at the bar and began fighting with the guests who were already knocking each other around, police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers said. The fisticuffs spilled from the bar into the hotel lobby and beyond, Evers said.

Police don't know what started either brawl, except for one conspicuous factor: "There was an issue with a lot of alcohol fueling the fights," Evers said.

Police didn't know if the 57-year-old wedding guest who suffered the heart attack had been in any of the altercations. Police did not identify members of either wedding party, but the deceased reportedly was one bride's uncle.

Schultz, the birthday boy, said that he was in his second-floor hotel room about 2 a.m. when he heard the party start to go sour.

"It started to sound more like shouting than partying," he said.

Schultz woke up his family and they all went into the hallway, which overlooks the hotel lobby.

"I saw a million police officers and started taping," he said.

Max and his mother estimated that they saw between 50 and 100 partygoers and as many police officers. "They were storming the hallways," he said of the cops. "They came up the elevator looking for people."

Evers didn't know how many guests or police were there, but he said that cops called for a third assist, "which is almost a citywide assist."

Schultz said that when he first looked over the balcony, people were yelling at each other but not fighting. But once the partygoers started shoving each other, police were "immediately on that," and they began trying to hold people back, he said.

"People were fighting back against police," Schultz said. "I started taping once the police started jumping on people."

In the video, several officers are seen around a combative male, and one of the cops can be seen hitting the man three times with a baton.

Evers said that the unruly guest was also hit with a Taser. He was arrested and remained in jail Sunday night.

Police didn't identify him because he hadn't been charged, but Evers said that he was one of "the main combatants" and was expected to be charged with assault on police.

Two other men in their late 20s were cited for disorderly conduct, Evers said.

"If we had the opportunity to hit everyone with disorderly conduct, we probably would have," Evers said. "The 75 to 100 people involved probably deserved to be locked up."

In the video, Schultz can be heard asking, "Did they just deck the bride?" and then stating: "They just decked the bride."

Evers said there was no indication that police had touched the bride. When interviewed Sunday, Schultz said that the bride appeared to be disorderly and that police may have pushed her to the ground. But he said that the amount of force police used didn't appear excessive.

"It looked necessary because these people were obviously ramped up on stuff," the boy said. "The people were fighting back. It was a mess."

His mother, Sue, agreed.

"There were a lot of drunk people and they were out of hand," she said. "It seems like police came in quick and did what they needed to do, if you ask me."

Evers said that Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Mayor Nutter were aware of the incident and the video. He said that Internal Affairs would obtain additional video surveillance from the hotel and investigate the amount of force used by officers. "But it looks appropriate for the amount of fighting," Evers said.

The episode occurred only a week after another YouTube video drew national attention - in which a decorated Philadelphia police lieutenant was shown punching a woman at a street party as she walked away from him. The cop has since been suspended with intent to dismiss and the woman received a personal apology from Nutter.


Contact Stephanie Farr at farrs@phillynews.com or 215-854-4225. Follow her on Twitter @FarFarrAway. Read her blog at PhillyConfidential.com.

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