Source: Group beaten at Tinley Park restaurant were white supremacists
BY JANET LUNDQUIST, NATASHA KORECKI AND MATTHEW BRUCE Staff Reporters May 20, 2012 1:26PM
Police investigate the scene at The Ashford House Restaurant, 7959 W. 159th Street, in Tinley Park, IL where allegedly a group of people entered and started assaulting patrons Saturday, May 19, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 1, 2012 12:42PM
A law enforcement source Sunday said the group beaten at a Tinley Park restaurant Saturday was made up of white supremacists, and those who assaulted them were protesters attacking their beliefs.
Police had five people in custody after the attack, which occurred at The Ashford House, 7959 W. 159th St. No charges had been filed yet, and the suspects did not appear in bond court Sunday.
Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki on Sunday said police do not know if the protesters had any connection to the NATO Summit in downtown Chicago.
He said police still have 35 to 40 people to interview, and charges could come Monday.
“The guys we have in the lockup are still not talking, at least not this morning,” Zabrocki said.
Beckie Williams was among the victims Saturday. Williams, who said she lives near the Quad Cities, said her group is called the European Heritage Group and they are not white supremacists.
“Where all this horrible, ugly, white supremacist stuff is coming from is beyond me,” she said. “I can’t wrap my head around it. I never thought celebrating your heritage was supremacy or racist.”
Williams said Saturday was the first meeting of the group, and that she chose Tinley Park because it was a central location. She said she chose May 19 for the meeting date because it is the anniversary of her mother’s death.
According to a May 3 post on whitenewsnow.com, someone with Williams’ email wrote that the “May Meet for White Nationalists and Families” would be on May 19 and 20 and that the purpose would be “economic networking,” “Work for Whites,” “Family Assistence (sic)” and “Real Time Activism.”
Williams on Sunday, though, claimed her e-mail has been hacked, and someone has been posing as her on the Internet.
Williams said she was injured in the brawl, but not badly enough to require medical attention. Calling the attackers “terrorists,” she said she is cooperating fully with police and that she plans to file her own lawsuit.
“Everything that has come out at this point is completely unfounded,” said Williams, who declined to comment further. “I feel that it is very unfair for people to be labeled and defined in the nature the media does do.”
Mike Winston, who owns the restaurant, is facing $10,000 to $15,000 in damage to his business, as well as a loss of revenue as customers keep their distance.
A party of 60 people for a banquet cancelled Sunday morning, he said.
“I’m down about 80 tables this morning. People think we’re closed,” he said.
Undaunted by the violence of Saturday afternoon, his staff all showed up for work Sunday morning.
“I was very proud of them,” Winston said. “Everybody got here at five this morning, we cleaned up everything we could.”
On Sunday afternoon, the dining room showed little evidence of Saturday’s attack. But there were still indications that the incident had left a mark on the restaurant. Several customers could be overheard discussing the attacks, some calling the ordeal, “creepy.”
Winston said it wasn’t the cost of the damages that concerned him the most, but the drop in patronage.
“It’ the loss of business that’s the killer,” he said.
Police shut down the restaurant at 1 p.m. on Saturday, and investigators were there until about 8 p.m. They didn’t open back up until Sunday morning, so Winston lost all business Saturday afternoon and night.
“Why would they do that here? I’m not thinking about the money right now. I just hope they all go to jail.”
Winston lashed out at both groups over the chaos.
“I have no f-ing idea who the hell these people are,” Winston said. “When they made this reservation, they were some Irish heritage whatever. We get reservations every day for parties of 20, 30, 40 — we don’t ask what their political affiliation is.”
Winston, who chased one of the attackers out of the restaurant and was attacked himself behind the building, said he hasn’t been accused of being on one side or the other.
“Bottom line is, I don’t know anything about why they came here,” Winston said. “Both groups are a bunch of a------s if you ask me.”
Winston said he was working in the kitchen the restaurant during the lunch rush when a waitress screamed that a fight had broken out in the dining room.
Tinley Park police said in a press release that approximately 15 people dressed in black walked into the restaurant about 12:45 p.m. Saturday and started a fight with a group of people eating there.
Ten people were injured, three were taken to the hospital.
When police arrived, the attackers fled in three vehicles. Police stopped one vehicle near 159th Street and Harlem Avenue. Five men, all white, were arrested.
Winston said the mob was wielding metal batons and hammers, wearing hooded jackets and obscuring their faces with scarves and other coverings.
“They came running in the door single file,” Winston said.
The attack wasn’t a random act of violence, police said. But the attack apparently spilled over to others in the restaurant.
“Once they attacked the table, they went and started hitting random people,” Winston said. “Four or five people got knocked over the head pretty good, enough to require stitches,” he said.
He chased after one of the attackers “and had him on the ground, then five guys got out of a car and started kicking the (crap) out of me,” Winston said.
Winston said he was kicked in the back of the head and suffered several bruises, but he was the only restaurant employee who was hurt.
“They did a whole lot of damage,” he said. “They flipped over tables, they broke half the dishes.”
On Sunday, Orland Park resident Edward Hiller was eating at another Tinley Park restaurant.
“To walk into a restaurant at 1 in the afternoon and start attacking people like that with bats and hammers, that’s intent to kill,” said Hiller, who lives across the street from the Ashford House. That’s definitely a scary thing.”
Surveillance cameras inside the restaurant captured the attack and footage was turned over to Tinley Park police, Winston said.
Winston said that during the attack most of the men’s face coverings were torn off.
“Most of these kids were white, and they all looked like they were between 18 and 25,” he said.
“This stuff doesn’t happen in Tinley Park. We don’t have racism or white supremacy in Tinley Park,” he said. “I wish they had just stayed where they were.”
In a news release, police tried to assure residents the attack was “an isolated incident” and that “there is no immediate threat to the community.”
Tinley police said they were being assisted in the investigation by the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force.
Contributing: Mike Nolan