“I was dancing at the Memory,” Elvis Ruiz-Denizard said in an interview last Saturday during a break from his job at Fishbar in Montauk. “I went out for a slice of pizza. I came out of the Memory, and six black guys surrounded me.”
Mr. Ruiz-Denizard speaks only a little English, so most of the conversation was conducted through Noel Feliciano, a manager at Fishbar.
He was talking about what had happened in Montauk early on June 11. It was a little after 3 a.m. Within half an hour, Mr. Ruiz-Denizard was arrested and charged with rioting in the second degree.
“I tried to run. I ran toward the Point [bar],” he said, adding that he was trying to get away but was penned in and beaten. When he fell to the ground, he said, he was kicked.
Mr. Ruiz-Denizard claimed he was attacked because he was Puerto Rican.
“They were looking for Puerto Ricans,” agreed Mr. Feliciano. He said the alleged attackers were in the center of Main Street, between the Memory and the Point, challenging Puerto Ricans to fight. That account was corroborated by other witnesses.
According to Mr. Feliciano, Mr. Ruiz-Denizard was simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
After he was beaten, he got up and ran to several men he recognized from Rincon, P.R. Ethnic groups of seasonal workers ebb and flow in numbers as the years go by: Irish, Czech, Ecuadorean, Mexican, Puerto Rican. This year, there is a large influx of men from Rincon in Montauk, seeking seasonal work.
According to Mr. Ruiz-Denizard and others, East Hampton Town police had difficulty controlling the situation. They were outnumbered, and called in additional officers.
“After he was beaten,” Mr. Feliciano said, “an officer pointed at him and told him to sit on the ground. ‘You’re under arrest.’ ” Mr. Ruiz-Denizard was handcuffed and placed in the back of a squad car. Even then, he said in Spanish, several men tried to get at him.
One of them, he asserted, told police, “Don’t fuck with us, we won’t fuck with you.”
Asked if there was anyone who could corroborate his story, Mr. Ruiz-Denizard said, “It happened so fast.” He was too busy defending himself to notice if there were witnesses, he said.
According to Mr. Ruiz-Denizard, there were no officers at the scene that night who spoke Spanish, and no Spanish-speaking officer or agent of the police interviewed him after he was arrested. He did not hear the language spoken until that afternoon, he said, during his arraignment, when the court provided him with a translator.
He also said there were more than 10 African-American combatants on the scene, the number first reported.
“Why weren’t any of the black guys arrested?” Mr. Feliciano asked. Four men were arrested after the battle. All were Puerto Rican.
“We don’t put anybody in custody unHampton Town Police Detective Lt. Christopher Anderson said on Tuesday.
The police account of the brawl, which some bystanders agreed with, has it starting inside the Point, where Emmanuel Candelaria-Vargas allegedly slammed a bottle on the side of the head of Arben Shoshi. The altercation quickly exploded into a chaotic massive fistfight, spilling out into the street.
According to the police report, several Puerto Rican men then gathered and fought with various men in the street, with Mr. Candelaria-Vargas allegedly punching and knocking down Kyle Russell, who is black.
However, Felipe Marion, who was also at the scene, gave a different account, saying he saw a man matching Mr. Candelaria-Vargas’s description being chased by three African-Americans, two of whom gave up the chase. The man who looked like Mr. Candelaria-Vargas pivoted and punched the last pursuer, knocking him down, said Mr. Marion.
An officer then pursued Mr. Candelaria-Vargas and caught up with him a block away.
It took police at least half an hour to restore order.
Mr. Candelaria-Vargas and Mr. Ruiz-Denizard were arraigned the next morning, along with Ivan Candelaria-Noriega and Charley Carillo Torres. Bail was set for Mr. Candelaria-Vargas at $10,000, and at $500 each for the other three, all of whom made bail with the help of friends and employers.
Mr. Candelaria-Vargas was set free on Friday on his own recognizance, under a New York State law requiring that suspects be released without bail if they have not been indicted within 120 hours of their arrest.
On Monday at 3 a.m., the scene on the street was quite different. There were two squad cars parked in front of the Point and two police SUVs parked at the Shell station next door. Two officers were on foot patrol, walking back and forth, covering the 40 or so square yards that had been the scene of the previous week’s battle.
Sunday night in Montauk is Friday night for its young seasonal workers. Many are off the next day after working a long, hard weekend in the restaurants and resorts that are the bloodstream of the hamlet’s summer economy.
At 3:30 in the morning all was still peaceful, as hundreds of young workers, of all races and ethnicities, slowly went their separate ways, back to the motel rooms they share, four to six in a room.