A New Jersey man was charged in connection with a large brawl that broke out among people attending two different wedding receptions in downtown Philadelphia during the weekend, police said Monday.
The fight, which was caught on video and quickly spread online, happened early Sunday at a hotel in the Society Hill neighborhood and involved dozens of people in their formal attire. A 57-year-old suffered a fatal heart attack outside the reception, police said, but authorities don't know if he was involved in the fights. Dozens of police were called in to attempt to control the melee.
One of the people involved, Matthew Sofka, 26, of Westfield, N.J., was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and other counts in connection with the fight, said Lt. Raymond Evers, a Philadelphia police spokesman.
His lawyer said outside the courthouse after his arraignment, "He's never been in trouble in his life. After all the evidence is going to come out, we're sure he's going to be exonerated."
Sofka, believed to be related to one of the grooms, kept his head down and refused to speak to reporters. His parents had posted bail.
The investigation is continuing and police expect more arrests in the future, Evers said. Investigators don't know what started the brawl, but alcohol was involved; two other people were cited for disorderly conduct.
The spreading altercation was caught on video by Max Schultz, a 15-year-old from Camp Hill in central Pennsylvania, who was in Philadelphia with his parents to see the historic sites and celebrate his birthday. Schultz said he was sleeping when noise from the fight awoke him and he went to check it out around 2 a.m.
He went to an atrium where he looked down on the fight, took out his cell phone and began recording it — after he had to frantically start deleting files so he had enough memory for the video of people sparring while wearing tuxedos and ball gowns.
"I just saw a lot of people going at it," said Schultz, who later posted the video on YouTube. "It was obviously pretty chaotic."
Dozens of police arrived and began to get control of the situation, he said.
"The situation could have been much worse if (the police) hadn't been there," he said. "I think they did what they had to do to keep people under control."
Sofka's neighbors in Westfield said he was always friendly.
"When I was pregnant, he shoveled me out from the snow, my car," said Pat Strange. "It's a really nice family, all of them."