The head of Philadelphia’s police union thinks prosecutors are “overthinking” the investigation of the Feb. 7 nightclub brawl involving Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy that left two off-duty cops injured, but Philadelphia’s district attorney responded Friday that his probe will take as long as necessary.
“I think they’re investigating too much,” John McNesby, president of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, said in a radio interview. “They need to just move on with it.” If he does not charge the group of individuals that were there that night, that’s an absolute disrespect to Philadelphia police officers.”
R. Seth Williams, the district attorney, not long after issued a rebuttal statement:
“My only goal is to get it right, not fast … I’m only going to operate on one timeline: The timeline that ends when all of the evidence is collected, has been reviewed and I have made the decision to charge or not charge a case.”
Those dueling statements might suggest that this is not an open-and-shut case, despite video that shows a portion of the nightclub fight, including what appears to be McCoy taking a swing and then being pulled out of the melee.
The union chief said that, if charges are not brought “against the group of individuals that were there that night, that’s an absolute disrespect to Philadelphia police officers.”
Yet Dennis Cogan, one of McCoy’s attorneys, told The Buffalo News that his investigators believe McCoy “did nothing wrong” and was “sober” when the fight broke out while declining further comment.
So where is the investigation headed, and why is it taking so long?
What is known
Here is what we know:
Three off-duty officers – Roland Butler, Darnell Jessie and Daniel Ayers – were seated at one table at the Recess Lounge, a private after-hours social club in the Old City section of Philadelphia, in the early morning of Sunday, Feb. 7.
At a different table were McCoy, three male friends − including Tamarcus (T.J.) Porter − and several women.
The fight erupted about 2:45 a.m., over a bottle of champagne.
A Philadelphia police report said Butler was knocked to the ground and “punched, kicked and stomped about his body and head multiple times.”
He drove himself to Delaware County Hospital, about 10 miles from the scene but closer to his home in Yeadon, Pa., for treatment for a cut to his right eye, a broken nose, broken ribs and a sprained thumb.
Jessie separately drove himself to Hahnemann University Hospital, which is closer to Recess. He received stitches over his left eye and treatment for a possible skull fracture.
Ayers wasn’t injured. But he filed the police report two days after the brawl.
A smartphone video obtained by TMZ later turned up and appeared to show McCoy involved in the fight. Although McCoy’s back is initially to the camera, he can be seen cocking his right arm and throwing the punch before being pulled away by what look to be security staff. It’s not clear on the video whether McCoy connected.
Several sources said it is not clear whether the off-duty officers identified themselves as working for the Philadelphia Police Department.
Police officers’ side
Here is the union take on the fight:
They want charges brought against the people at McCoy’s table.
“The video speaks for itself,” McNesby, the union chief, told The News. “I mean, listen, this wasn’t a pushing-and-shoving match. This was an all-out, severe assault. If that’s not the definition of aggravated assault, I don’t know what is. So I would expect charges. I would have expected them sooner than later, but I guess they’re doing a little bit more thorough of an investigation because they’re going to be scrutinized by Philadelphians, by people in Buffalo, by the NFL, by everybody. They want to get it right.”
Questions have been raised about the amount of time that passed between when the fight ended and when the officers went to seek medical treatment at the hospitals, as well as the two-day delay of Ayers’ filing the police report.
McNesby said that those were not long delays,
“I mean, you can say that they didn’t get treatment for two hours, two days,” McNesby told The News.
“You can say they didn’t report it right away, but the bottom line is that there’s a clear and convincing video of exactly what happened and the police are in possession of that. Ultimately, the DA will decide whether to prosecute.”
McNesby noted that in more than 4,500 felony arrests during his career, he has “never waited this long, ever, to see somebody arrested.” He went on to say that if charges weren’t filed, the union would look to take the matter to the Pennsylvania Attorney General.
“We’ll also have our attorneys file a private criminal complaint, and we’ll move in that direction,” McNesby said.
This is what happened, according to a person close to McCoy and familiar with the situation who spoke to The News but not for attribution.
The off-duty cops and McCoy’s group had encountered each other earlier in the evening at a different establishment.
McCoy and his friends were at the Reserve, a bar and restaurant also located in Old City Philadelphia, on the night of Saturday, Feb. 6.
The three off-duty officers also happened to be there, but there was no interaction between the two groups.
While at the Reserve, McCoy and his friends spent some time talking with three to five women who were together. McCoy and his friends then told the women they were “bored” and were leaving to attend a concert, but that they eventually would end up at Recess Lounge if the women wanted to join them there.
One or more of the women also interacted with the off-duty officers at the Reserve, the source said.
Later, in the night or early morning, McCoy’s group, the women and the off-duty officers all ended up at the Recess.
The women joined McCoy and his friends at a table.
The three off-duty policemen were at a different table.
A member of McCoy’s group ordered two $350 bottles of champagne. A cake with sparklers also was delivered to McCoy’s table for the birthday of one of the women.
Butler walked over to McCoy’s table, and grabbed a bottle of champagne that the police officer believed was ordered for their table, the source said.
Porter then confronted Butler, and the two began fighting.
When McCoy saw that Butler had his hands around Porter’s neck, the source said, McCoy jumped in and threw a punch at Butler that missed.
McCoy was pulled away, and the fight continued, involving several people, the source said, while the running back watched from the side as security guards broke up the fight. The source said security guards suggested that McCoy leave the club “to avoid this whole public exposure.”
CSNPhilly.com, citing law enforcement sources, has reported that district attorney Williams is “pushing back” on charging McCoy and his three friends for their part in the melee.
The website said the DA’s office has questions about the way the officers conducted themselves, including the fact they did not call 9-1-1 during the incident and whether they were drinking excessively.
And a police spokesperson said all of the information the police gathered from the brawl has been turned over to the DA’s office. Williams, in his statement, said his investigators are continuing to gather evidence.
“My team and I are continuing to investigate the incident that took place at the Recess Lounge,” Williams stated. “Like with all investigations, I don’t comment about what I will or will not do until all of the evidence has been thoroughly reviewed.”