Man arrested after ’50-person fight’ was newly-retired Fort Bliss soldier who says he was celebrating | #retirement | #elderly | #seniors
EL PASO, Texas — The owner of a west El Paso bar and restaurant contends police are wrong in their report of a 50-person brawl with shots fired that took place in his parking lot on Sunday night.
And Justin Kaufman says the man arrested by police – who was later ordered released by a magistrate due to a lack of probable cause – wasn’t involved in any fight.
That man was Shelby Hughes, an Army sergeant first class who had retired just days prior from Fort Bliss. Hughes said he was leaving El Paso Drafthouse 2 on North Mesa Street after celebrating at a daylong brunch with friends.
Kaufman told ABC-7 in an interview on Tuesday that the police account of what happened was inaccurate and doesn’t match his surveillance video. Although from the location of the security camera, it’s difficult to determine if the video he showed ABC-7 captured the totality of events that evening.
Kaufman claims the so-called fight involved an argument between two women in front of his establishment, and others who followed the pair outside may have given the false impression of brawl. He says he thinks a passer-by probably noticed the large crowd and called police – and he maintains no one had a gun or fired shots.
The bar owner alleges that police detained the retired service member because he fit the description of a man that officers were apparently told had fired a weapon during the incident.
“The retiring sergeant refused to be frisked, telling the officers he had no weapon nor was he involved with the fight,” Kaufman told ABC-7, suggesting that the man’s refusal to be searched led to his arrest.
But Hughes said he did not refuse to be searched, rather, he just asked to not be manhandled by police – who he claims tossed him to the ground to search him. Cell phone video reviewed by ABC-7 that was taken by a bystander at the time of his arrest shows Hughes lying on the ground with officers around him; people in the crowd can be heard telling police that Hughes didn’t do anything.
El Paso police have previously said a 40-year-old Fort Bliss man – who was not named – was taken into custody because he was believed to have been armed with a gun and had fled the scene. Police have not commented further, saying in a Monday statement – issued after a magistrate released Hughes – that the incident remained under investigation.
It’s also worth noting that Kaufman, who owns a variety of local bars and gyms, is currently facing his own legal troubles with El Paso police. Kaufman has felony drug charges pending following his arrest last November.