Oct. 09--Philadelphia police say they expect to make more arrests in connection with a 100-person brawl involving two wedding parties that broke out early Sunday at the Sheraton Society Hill hotel.
Three people have been arrested in the incident, which began in the hotel bar after a wedding reception. One man died of a heart attack while shepherding his grown children out of the hotel as wedding guests battled and police swung nightsticks inside.
Two people were issued disorderly conduct citations, police said. A third person -- Matthew Sofka, 26, of Westfield, N.J., whom police described as the "main combatant" -- grew so unruly that police used a Taser on him, officers said. He was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment, and rioting, police said.
Vincent Sannuti, 57, died early Sunday at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital after collapsing in the hotel parking lot.
Patricia Strange, his former next-door neighbor on Kent Road in Huntingdon Valley, said she had been friendly with Sannuti, his ex-wife, and their children -- Kristi, Nick, Vincent Jr., and Chelsea -- for 27 years.
Strange said Sannuti was a heating and plumbing contractor. He never hesitated to help neighbors, she said. Once, when her water heater broke, "he was there that afternoon to fix it."
She said Sannuti had never talked about heart or health problems.
"He stopped by two weeks ago," Strange said. "He looked great. He was just getting his life together after the divorce. He was getting his act together.
"I never thought that it was the last time I would see him after 27 years. He was just a good man, a super friend, and a good neighbor. He's going to be missed a lot."
At the Sheraton on Monday, hotel guests lounged at tables where, just a day before, suit-clad wedding guests had clashed with police officers. Hotel officials refused to comment about the fight, but said they were cooperating with a police investigation.
Part of the brawl was captured on video by Max Schultz, 15, a Camp Hill, Pa., resident celebrating his birthday with his parents in Philadelphia.
Schultz said he heard shouting about 1:45 a.m. and ran to a balcony near his room to see the free-for-all in the lobby below. He "whipped out his phone" and began filming, he said.
The resulting YouTube video has been viewed more than 500,000 times.
In the video, police officers can be seen swinging nightsticks multiple times at guests.
Police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers said the department believed that officers used an appropriate amount of force.
"They brought this whole incident on themselves. We took the necessary amount of force," Evers said. "It was out of hand, it was crazy."
At one point, Evers said, a sergeant was placed in a headlock and swung back and forth. The sergeant was treated at a hospital for minor back injuries, he said.
Evers said that it was unclear how the fight began but that witnesses told police the initial confrontation involved a bridal party whose reception was being held at the Sheraton and guests from another wedding who were staying at the hotel.
"Half the time, you don't even know how a fight started," he said. "They all got involved. You really can't tell who's on what side when they're all in suits. It's not like they're wearing opposing uniforms."
Evers said that the incident required officers from "a lot of surrounding districts" to respond and that the department expected to make additional arrests.
"We're interviewing police officers, witnesses, hotel staff," he said, and "looking at video."
A wedding reception descends into chaos at: www.philly.com/melee
Contact Aubrey Whelan
at 215-854-2771 or [email protected], or follow on Twitter at @aubreyjwhelan.
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