Detectives now believe they know who swung the hockey stick that seriously injured an 18-year-old Crescent Avenue man during the wild brawl outside the North Buffalo Ice Rink Saturday evening.
"We've interviewed several witnesses, and we expect to make an arrest by this weekend," Lt. Larry J. Baehre, the Buffalo police public information officer, said today.
Northwest District detectives reportedly are seeking an arrest warrant against the person accused of assaulting Corey McCarthy, who remains in serious condition in Erie County Medical Center with a head injury.
Detectives have said that they planned to seek first-degree assault charges against the person accused in the stick-swinging attack.
Police refused to identify the suspect, but several witnesses from the North Buffalo group involved in the fracas have claimed that an adult associated with the Riverside youth hockey team attacked McCarthy.
Detectives continued interviewing participants and witnesses Tuesday, but no clear picture emerged as to who was the aggressor in the battle outside the Tacoma Avenue facility.
The fracas pitted Riverside players and some adults against mostly teen-age spectators from North Buffalo, following an Explorer Hockey League game between the Riverside and McKinley teams.
"It's a toss-up," Detective Martin Bayerl of the Northwest District said Tuesday. "I can't say for sure who the aggressor was. I've heard (it was) both sides."
Both sides agree on one thing, that the incident began when fans in the stands taunted the Riverside goalie over a personal matter during the game.
Afterward, the Riverside team and some of its adult partisans left the rink and clashed with a group of mostly North Buffalo youths.
"From the people I've spoken to, it led me to believe the Riverside people were trying to get out of there and go home," Bayerl said. "They were confronted by the others, and that's how the whole thing ensued."
Bayerl and other detectives, though, have said that five of the six people injured in the melee apparently were with the North Buffalo group.
Police also have found no definitive evidence that the North Buffalo group had pipes and baseball bats, as some witnesses claimed.
It's unclear what effect, if any, the brawl will have on security measures at youth hockey games.
Matthew J. Baudo, vice president of the North Buffalo Community Development Center, which helps the city operate the rink, said a security guard wearing a yellow security jacket was at the game but left as soon as it ended.
"At this point, we're waiting for the police to complete their investigation and find out the true story," Baudo said. "We don't want to tell the Explorer League they can't come in there anymore, but we are going to have to look into this."
Baudo agreed with police, who have found no indication that the brawl was part of any bitter North Buffalo-Riverside rivalry.
"This was kids provoking kids, and it should have been defused by adults," said Baudo, a longtime hockey parent and leader of various youth hockey leagues. "We as adults are supposed to stop these things. We're not supposed to promote them."
Also Tuesday, McCarthy's parents issued a statement urging people to stop the violence associated with the attack.
"We don't condone violence in any way, shape or form," they said, asking that their first names not be used. "We don't know what happened to our son, but we would like it to end right here. We don't want anybody to avenge our son."