Wednesday, May 20, 2015
At hearing, details emerge in Bristol Township bar melee that injured four
Posted: Monday, May 11, 2015
Keith Bratt was working his sixth night as a bouncer at a Bristol Township bar when he witnessed what he thought was a typical fistfight in the parking lot involving four people.
What he saw turned out to be anything but ordinary.
The man he saw get hit in the head, face and side had been stabbed in the chest, Bratt testified at a preliminary hearing Monday for four of the 10 men charged in connection with two fights outside the Stadium Bar and Grill last year that left four people injured, one with a life-threatening stab wound.
The men allegedly participated in one or both fights involving more than a dozen people outside the bar around closing time on Aug. 16. At the request of police, the case went before the Bucks County investigating grand jury, which recommended charges against the defendants including aggravated and simple assault, rioting, conspiracy and for some defendants, robbery.
One person — Onorio Velez, 20, of Bristol Township — is charged with criminal attempted homicide for allegedly stabbing Steven Basalyga, 21, a Falls volunteer firefighter. All but two of the defendants are free on bail; Velez remains incarcerated in Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $500,000 and Samuel Padilla Jr., 25, of Bristol Township, also remains incarcerated but his bail was reduced Monday from 10 percent of $150,000 to $75,000.
Bratt was among six witnesses who testified during a five–hour preliminary hearing for Velez, Padilla, and co-defendants Michael Gonzalez, 22, of Bristol, and Carlos Baltazar, 26, of Bristol Township.
During his two hours on the witness stand, Bratt testified that he had become familiar with some customers during his time working at the Woerner Avenue bar — a job he said he quit after the stabbing. He said those customers included the defendants, whom he knew as the “Barbershop Boys.”
The night of the two fights, the bar offered a $2 drink promotion that brought more than 300 people to the bar, Bratt testified. At some point during the evening, Bratt testified, he saw Padilla punch a man who Bratt didn’t recognize. Both men were told to leave, but another bouncer let Padilla stay in the bar, while the other man left, Bratt said.
Moments later Bratt noticed a large number of patrons heading out the door and he suspected something wasn’t right, he said.
When Bratt went outside to the parking lot he saw Padilla punch Basalyga — who was at the bar that night — on the side of his head, Bratt testified. When Basalyga lurched forward, Gonzalez punched him in the face breaking his nose. Bratt testified he saw Velez lunge at Basalyga in a twist-jab motion.
After Basalyga fell to the ground, Baltazar approached the men and they started to walk away. The rest of the crowd started walking toward the Acme parking lot across the street, Bratt said.
On cross examination, though, Bratt testified that he didn’t notice any object in Velez’s hand. Police have not recovered a weapon used in the stabbing.
Bratt said that he and another former bouncer helped Basalyga up and started walking him toward the bar when he collapsed again. The man with Bratt noticed a spreading red stain on Basalyga’s shirt. When they pulled up the shirt, they saw a tear-shaped wound in his chest. The second man took off his shirt and attempted to slow the bleeding with direct pressure, Bratt said.
Basalyga was taken to St. Mary Medical Center in Middletown, where he was treated for a stab wound that damaged his right atrium and right ventricular arteries, resulting in loss of blood pressure and heartbeat, court documents allege. He was placed in a medically induced coma and underwent open heart surgery.
The attack on Basalyga was followed by a second, larger fight involving three other bar customers.
One of them, Kelan Caccavella, testified Monday that his friend Nicholas Silva had been involved in an altercation with a stranger in the bar. Witness testimony Monday did not identify who had the confrontation in the bar with Padilla.
After the confrontation, Silva, Caccavella and Silva’s girlfriend Jordyn Miller left the Stadium. While walking to the parking lot, Caccavella turned around and saw a man hit Silva and then other people joined in the attack.
Silva got away and the trio continued walking to their cars, which were parked in the Acme parking lot. Caccavella testified that they were not chased and no one was yelling at them as they walked.
But as Caccavella was pulling out of his parking space, Silva, who was riding with Caccavella, noticed that Miller was outside her car; he got out of Caccavella’s car to check on her. Within moments, Silva was surrounded by five to 10 people who attacked him, Caccavella said.
Silva got onto his feet and ran to Caccavella’s waiting car. But the crowd followed and surrounded the car. While Caccavella tried to yank Silva into the car, the crowd tried to pull him out. During the melee, Caccavella said people jumped on his car, kicked in the windshield and smashed the hood, resulting in $12,000 in damages.
The mob also attacked Caccavella, hitting him on the left side of his head and face and stabbing him four times in the shoulder and arm.
“Give me your money. Give me your wallet. We are going to kill you,” Caccavella testified he heard people yell at him.
After Silva got in the car, Caccavella drove away, but in the process struck a man who helped fend off the attackers. The man testified that he suffered a slight concussion as a result of falling onto the pavement. Caccavella is not facing criminal charges for the accident.
After he drove away, Caccavella pulled into a nearby parking lot and called 911.
On cross examination, though, Caccavella said he couldn’t say if the same people who attacked him and Silva outside were the ones involved in the altercation inside the bar.
Miller, who testified that she had 10 drinks that evening, testified that she heard Silva yelling at her to get in her car and noticed 10 to 15 people running toward her; the group ran past her and attacked Silva before swarming Caccavella’s car.
Miller said she recognized two people in the group — Ellershaw and Velez. Miller said she did not see a knife, blood or other marks on Velez. She also didn’t hear anyone threaten to rob or kill Caccavella.
Bristol Township Detective Greg Beidler testified that in grand jury testimony, Baltazar admitted that his friends approached Basalyga and one punched him in the head and knocked him down. Afterward, they walked toward the Acme and saw Miller arguing with another friend as her boyfriend Silva approached. Baltazar testified that he hit Silva and then his friends attacked Silva.
Velez also told the grand jury that he saw his friends arguing with a guy in the parking lot, Beidler said. One of his friends punched Basalyga and knocked him out and Velez stepped over him and headed to the Acme parking lot. The detective added that Velez admitted to the grand jury that he struck Silva, but denied stabbing anyone.
Following testimony, District Judge Joanne Kline held Velez and Baltazar for trial on all charges and dismissed felony riot charges against Padilla and Gonzalez, but held them for trial on all other charges.
Another five defendants on Monday waived their right to a preliminary hearing sending the charges against them directly to Bucks County court. They were Philip Budion, 24, of Bristol Township; William Ellershaw, 24, of Bristol Township; Shaquille Legette, 21, of Bristol; Brandyn Smith, 25, of Bristol; and Anthony Verderame, 21, of Bristol Township. One defendant, Steven Emery Evens Jr., 21, of Bristol Township, remains at large as of Monday.