No charges likely in YouTube fight

Posted: Monday, May 03, 2010

KETCHIKAN — No charges are likely over an incident in which a teenager challenged an inebriated homeless man to fight at a place known as “The Moon.”

The April 23 incident near the end of Venetia Avenue was briefly posted on YouTube.

The homeless man accepted the challenge, pulled his shirt off, threw the first punch, and the two fought, with about 15 other teenagers watching the action, said Ketchikan Police Chief Ed Talik.

One or two of the bystanders could be seen pointing cameras or cell phones at the action.

An amateur videographer posted his or her work on YouTube that night, in the form of two clips with the titles “Bum Fight Part 1” and “Bum Fight Part 2.” Together, they added up to about one minute of viewing time. The video clips were available for viewing for a short time before they were removed, apparently by YouTube, Talik said.

Through their own sources, officers were able to identify the bystanders, as well as the homeless man, a chronic inebriate well known to police, he said. The man refused to cooperate or discuss the incident, other than to say he often goes to Venetia Hill to scrounge cigarette butts, he said.

“We went to him,” Talik said, “and he’s yelling: ‘Leave me alone. Stop harassing me.’”

Talik said he was more disturbed about the video when he first heard about it, and about what purportedly was on it, than he was after he saw it.

Rumors had circulated that 15 or more of the middle-school-age teens joined together in beating the man. Talik said nothing like that was on the recording.

Only one boy fought with the homeless man, though many other youngsters could be seen and heard shouting encouragement to the boy and making suggestions regarding where to punch or kick the man.

Shawna Harrison, a parent who has children in the Ketchikan School District, said another parent forwarded a link to the YouTube video to her Facebook account. Harrison watched the first part, but couldn’t bear to watch the second, she said. Several children saw the video and were disgusted, she said.

Talik said police consulted with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and charges are unlikely, although still under consideration is the possibility of charging both fighters with disorderly conduct. But Talik said given the homeless man’s attitude there wouldn’t be much chance of a successful prosecution.

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