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Wedding reception at Orchard Park Country Club ends with ugly brawl

Seven different police agencies were called to help break up a brawl that broke out at a country club wedding reception Saturday night that had family members screaming that they hated each other hours after witnessing a couple exchange their marriage vows.

“Things were said that can never be taken back,” said a shocked witness who watched the fight unfold.

A manager at the Orchard Park Country Club repeatedly denied Sunday afternoon that any incident had occurred, despite confirmed reports by Orchard Park police, witnesses at the event, and bystanders who saw town and state police cars in front of the building.

The fights took place at the end of an otherwise beautiful wedding and reception held at the Country Club for a couple who live in the town. A witness who worked at the event but asked not to be identified said roughly 200 guests attended, and the fracas unfolded after the official reception ended at 11 p.m.

“I’m telling you, there was blood everywhere,” he said. “There was holes punched in the walls. Words couldn’t describe it. Just when you thought it was over, another fight started.”

Lt. Patrick Fitzgerald, who was shift commander Saturday night, confirmed the witness’ statements and said that the later brawl followed a more minor incident earlier in the evening. Police were called at 10:18 p.m. regarding a member of the wedding party who was accused of touching a woman inappropriately and wound up getting punched in the face.

The aggressor was escorted off the premises, Fitzgerald said.

It wasn’t until the reception was over and people were preparing to leave, however, that a fight ensued that ultimately engulfed dozens of family members and other guests.

Orchard Park police reported that shortly after 11 p.m., police received multiple 911 calls regarding a large fight at the club.

When they responded, officers encountered “a large crowd inside and outside of the venue where the fighting was still ongoing.” Damage was reported throughout the building.

Because of the large scale nature of the brawl, Fitzgerald said, additional police assistance was requested, and officers from the Town of Hamburg, Town of West Seneca, Village of East Aurora, Town of Cheektowaga, Erie County Sheriff’s Office and State Police responded and assisted the Orchard Park police in breaking up the fights, treating the injured and removing people from the club.

The Orchard Park Fire Company and Orchard Park EMS also responded and treated several people. A 39-year-old man, whose name was not released, suffered a head injury and was taken to Erie County Medical Center. All others refused further medical assistance.

A manager at the Orchard Park Country Club, who declined to give his name, said Sunday afternoon that no incident of any kind occurred the night before and that no police were called. He also said he was upset that The Buffalo News was reporting unsubstantiated claims.

When informed that the police directly provided the information and that the report indicated damage to the club, the manager responded that he had no idea why the police would state such a thing.

“Look around,” he said. “Does it look like there was any damage?”

The club’s main lounge and dining areas showed no signs of any altercation. Chairs, tables, pillows and lounge furniture stood neatly and attractively arranged inside the single-story main building.

But the wedding reception was held in a side banquet room that was not viewed Sunday. Fitzgerald said damage included holes in walls, blood, broken crystal bowls and glasses and damage to property in the main banquet area, hallways and basement.

“For them to say nothing happened is 100 percent wrong,” he said.

What started out as a single fight wound up becoming multiple fights laced with screaming and profanity that engulfed dozens of people as more people jumped in to intercede and wound up being sucked into the fray.

A witness at the reception said employees at the club appeared helpless to keep the fighting among guests and bridal party members from escalating.

The bride was hustled outside to a back patio to shield her from the scene while the bridegroom remained inside, desperately yelling at everyone to leave, the witness said.

“No one was safe,” he said.

The main banquet manager, who had left the event shortly after the first dance, which is customary, returned to the scene after the police arrived and angrily demanded to know why she hadn’t been contacted right away. Fitzgerald said the general manager and his wife also showed up later that night to confer with police and find out what happened.

The witness also said he was shocked that he didn’t see police inside the banquet room until about half an hour after the fighting started.

Fitzgerald said police responded much sooner than that but initially focused their attention on a guest with a head injury who was in the basement and ultimately taken to Erie County Medical Center for treatment. The victim’s name was not released, but Fitzgerald said the injury did not appear to be severe.

Despite interviews with staff, police were unable to identify exactly who or what caused the fights, Fitzgerald said. No one was arrested, though Fitzgerald said police have offered to work with the general manager and review surveillance tapes to determine who might be held responsible for starting the fights.

He added that much of the physical fighting was quelled within the first 15 minutes of officers’ arrival, though verbal exchanges among intoxicated guests continued as police tried to usher people home. No names have yet been released regarding the incident.

“There were intoxicated individuals who were not helping us at all and had to be sent along with a sober individual,” Fitzgerald said.

Not unlike a Buffalo Bills game, he added, after reflecting on the other trouble makers the Orchard Park Police were busy dealing with Sunday.

“They were just a little better dressed, I guess,” he said.