As reported July 6, 2006 by the Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch:
Viewers robbed after fireworks
Young men wielding baseball bats injure 10 near Boulevard Bridge
BY PAIGE AKIN MUDD
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Jul 6, 2006
An evening of fun, family and fireworks took a violent turn just after the last sparks above Dogwood Dell fell from the air.
Ten people who had watched the July Fourth fireworks display from the boulder-strewn banks below the Boulevard Bridge were robbed and beaten by a group of baseball bat-wielding young men. The assailants demanded the victims' wallets, purses, cell phones and other valuables, Richmond police said.
"It's the Fourth of July. We're celebrating our freedom, and then this happens," said one woman who witnessed the attacks and who would identify herself only as Karen, 30, of Richmond. "It was terrifying."
Richmond police confirmed that four of the 10 robbery victims were injured, but authorities would not comment on those injuries. One man, who identified himself as Stavros, said he had to be rescued by boat from a rock in the middle of the river after fleeing from a man with a bat.
The attacks began about 9:45 p.m. on the James River near Westover Hills Boulevard and Riverside Drive. There, about 30 people had gathered to watch the fireworks. When the show ended, they packed up to leave.
"Then we heard something fall very close to us. It was these huge stones, and we thought someone was throwing them off the bridge above us," Karen said. "We yelled, "Hey, there's people down here. Stop throwing things.'"
That's when a group of 15 to 20 young men in dark pants and white T-shirts came down to the river's edge. Some carried baseball bats, Karen said. Police confirmed that the men used baseball bats and 40-ounce beer bottles as weapons.
She and her friend hid until they had a chance to run to safety.
Stavros, 20, of Richmond used his backpack to shield himself from the rocks. When the group of young men emerged, he and several other people huddled for cover behind a large rock.
"Then I saw two people approaching us, and I saw something large and metallic in one guy's hand," he said, and he thought it was a knife or bat. "I told people we were going to have to jump in the river. As soon as I realized they weren't just robbing us, I jumped in the river and started swimming."
He later learned that people who stayed near shore were hit with aluminum bats.
Stavros clung to a rock in the middle of the river. Because he didn't know if the attackers had guns, he said, "I was really worried that I was going to get shot at because I was a pretty visible target."
After about 30 minutes, a Richmond fire department dive team responding to a 911 call from one of the victims rescued him by boat.
After the attacks, police and rescue workers searched for the men involved in the robberies and assaults. All the assailants were between 15 and 20 years old, according to police. No arrests have been made, Richmond police said yesterday, but authorities continue to investigate.
"It was the perfect place to watch the fireworks until this," Karen said. "It just doesn't make any sense."
Contact staff writer Paige Akin Mudd at [email protected]
or (804) 649-6671.
The story can be found at; http://www.timesdispatch.com/servle...65379&pagename=RTD/MGArticle/RTD_BasicArticle