PRESCOTT, AZ - An investigative report released Friday provides new details about a raucous fight at a Prescott bar that has affected the highest level of law enforcement in the region, including surveillance video and eyewitness accounts that indicate members of a police motorcycle club were involved.
Witnesses said "everyone was swinging at everybody" during the Dec. 22 brawl at Moctezuma's on the night that the Iron Brotherhood Motorcycle Club was having its Christmas party on Prescott's Whiskey Row, according to the report. The Department of Public Safety released police reports to The Associated Press and other media organizations.
The state is investigating whether the men involved in the fight were off-duty police officers who belong to the Iron Brotherhood, whose Arizona chapter is named after Whiskey Row and has members statewide.
State investigators had to take over the probe because of a conflict of interest involving local law enforcement. The interim police chief of the Prescott Police Department is a member of the club but wasn't involved in the scuffle, DPS spokesman Bart Graves said. The police chief of neighboring Prescott Valley said he has since withdrawn from the motorcycle club. The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office has at least three employees in the group.
The heavily redacted police reports did not name any of the people involved in the fight or witnesses, but the victim recounted details in an interview with The Associated Press.
Justin Stafford, who acknowledged he was drunk, said he was out with a friend when he started up a conversation with a biker wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket with a patch that said "president" on the front. Stafford, 23, said as he asked about what motorcycles the man and his buddies rode, the biker grabbed him by the throat and pushed him toward the bar. Stafford said he looked back to make sure he wasn't going to fall, and when he turned around again, someone punched him in the nose.
"Apparently one of them didn't like the fact that I was talking to them, or something like that," said Stafford, who grew up in Chino Valley and now lives in Colorado.
Stafford said his friend didn't see who hit him and immediately whisked him out of the bar and took him to a hospital with a bloodied and swollen nose. He has been interviewed by authorities but didn't learn until last week that police officers could have been involved.
"I never saw the guy who did it," Stafford said. "I couldn't even begin to tell you what he looks like."
That wouldn't stop the investigation, Graves said.
"We have a lot of witnesses, people at the bar at the time that saw everything," he said.
Graves wouldn't say which officers, if any, were directly involved in the fight. A full report should be ready in 30 to 45 days and will be turned over to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, he said.
"We're very thorough, we take our time, we're never in a rush," Graves said.
The motorcycle club had reserved a room at nearby Hooligan's Pub earlier that night for its party. A representative of Hooligans told police that the group of about 20 bikers, some of whom had brought guests, was rowdy and that he had to stop serving alcohol to nearly all of them by the time the three-hour party ended. The whole group "was acting like they were some outlaw motorcycle gang," according to the report.
Some of them walked down Whiskey Row to Moctezuma's, which denies entry to members of motorcycle clubs who are wearing their colors. The bar made an exception for members of the Iron Brotherhood because they were recognized as law enforcement officers, the reports state.
No officers or deputies have been placed on leave as a result of the fight, the three local agencies said. No one has been arrested or charged in the alleged assault. The owner of the bar declined comment.
While members insist that the Iron Brotherhood is a law-abiding organization, Prescott has seen its share of illegal activity by street and motorcycle gangs in recent years. It voted to become part of a regional effort in 2013 to combat the problem.