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‘Courage beyond his years’: Family says teen swam to dock to help Black colleague attacked in viral riverfront brawl

A screengrab of eyewitness footage depicts multiple men standing on a riverfront dock in Alabama in an apparent brawl.

Screengrab of live footage from a brawl in Alabama dated August 6, 2023. Screen grab from NBC WSFA12 News video.

After footage of a riverfront melee went viral online, Alabama police announced on Monday that they have made multiple arrests connected to the brawl that erupted Sunday in Montgomery and they are now continuing an investigation to identify other potential suspects involved.

The Montgomery Police Department responded to Riverfront Park on Sunday afternoon and found a chaotic scene: a large group of people, who mostly appeared to be white, were engaged in a sprawling fight with a Black dock worker.

In a video of the brawl shared by the Alabama Political Reporter, the Riverfront employee appears to be violently accosted by boaters and several onlookers quite abruptly. It was reported by NBC’s WFSA12 that a boater may have initiated a confrontation after docking, or attempting to dock, his pontoon in a space specially reserved for Montgomery’s riverboat, the Harriot II.

It is unclear what words were exchanged when the worker  was first confronted. The Washington Post reported that an investigation is pending and additional arrests could be forthcoming.

The dock worker was untying the vessel when the men appear to approach and start swinging. Montgomery police are still investigating the matter and reviewing footage from the event.

A group of people who mostly appear to be white are seen surrounding a Black dock worker that has been knocked to the ground.

A group of people, who mostly appear white, appear to be surrounding a Black dock worker who was accosted by a boater at Montgomery’s Riverfront Park on Aug. 6, 2023. (Screen grab courtesy of NBC WFSA12)

“This was an unfortunate incident which never should have occurred. As our police department investigates these intolerable actions, we should not become desensitized to violence of any kind in our community. Those who choose violent actions will be held accountable by our criminal justice system,” Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said a statement Sunday.

The names of those who have been arrested in connection to the brawl are not yet being made public, according to the Montgomery Police Department.

The Alabama Political Reporter identified one of the boaters involved, a local business owner named Chase Shipman, in a report on Monday. Shipman admitted to participating in the chaos to a degree, but claimed he wanted the violence to stop because “he knew it was wrong to attack the dock worker,”  the local outlet note.

Video appears to show Shipman punching the Black man while he was on the ground.

Footage from the brawl went viral on social media swiftly, with many pointing to the actions of a young man who dove into the water to assist the dock worker. The young man was identified only as 16-year-old Aaren by Makina Lashea, a publicist for the teen’s family.

“In the face of adversity, Aaren selflessly came to the rescue of a fellow colleague, showcasing courage beyond his years. We are immensely proud of his actions and the values he exemplifies, standing as an inspiration to us all,” a statement on Aaren’s behalf said.

Screengrabs left and right from Alabama Political Reporter video feature a Black man swimming up to a riverfront dock in Alabama where another Black man appears to be outnumbered by a group of white people brawling with him.

From left to right, screengrabs from an Alabama Political Reporter video depict scenes from a brawl in Montgomery, Alabama where one man swam up to a riverfront dock to help a security guard who came under attack by a group of boaters.

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