Eyewitness recalls violence of Tinley Park restaurant attack
BY STEVE METSCH Sun-Times Mediaemail@example.com May 26, 2012 1:14AM
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 3, 2012 11:12AM
A horde of masked figures stormed the restaurant in a single-file line, wielding bats, claw hammers and metal batons — their presence announced when one shouted, “‘Hey, bitches, the ARA is going to f--- up this place.’ ”
With that, the shrouded thugs went on a rampage, clubbing diners at The Ashford House restaurant on May 19 in Tinley Park. They did not discriminate as to the targets of their violence, even pushing an 80-year-old woman to the ground, according to an eyewitness who’s a former Chicago police officer.
“Although the terrorist assault lasted only about a minute, it was the longest minute of my life,” the eyewitness said.
Authorities have said the attackers were targeting a group that believes in white supremacy and calls itself the Illinois European Heritage Association. At least 10 people were hurt during the attack, with three taken to a hospital for treatment.
Five Indiana men who prosecutors say are linked to the Anti-Racist Action Group remain in the Cook County Jail, charged with felony mob action, aggravated battery and criminal damage to property. They are John Tucker, 26, of Martinsville, Ind.; Cody Sutherlin, 23, and Alex Stuck, 22, both of Bloomington, Ind.; and Dylan Sutherlin, 20, and Jason Sutherlin, 33, both of Gosport, Ind. Two victims also were arrested on charges unrelated to the attack.
The Anti-Racist Action Group (ARA) is a “radical left-wing group” that often resorts to violent acts, said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization based in Montgomery, Ala. The attack, he said, “did more harm to the cause of fighting racism than almost anyone can imagine.”
It was easy for the Anti-Racist Action Group to learn the other group was meeting in Tinley Park because it was advertised on two white supremacist websites, Potok said.
“It was incredibly foolish of them,” he said.
A member of the Illinois European Heritage Association has denied the group believes in white supremacy.
But one of the websites, Stormfront, is run by a man who is a former high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama, Potok said, and the other, White News Now, is operated by the former “right-hand man to David Duke, the former Klan leader.
The eyewitness, whose identity the SouthtownStar has agreed to keep private because the man fears retaliation, said he and his family were having lunch when the frightening attack started. He quickly realized what he thought was a robbery had turned into a fight for his life.
“I also remember thinking that this must be the feeling that passengers experience on a hijacked plane,” he said.
The attackers began upending tables, hurling plates and silverware and attacking other diners.
“I stood up and grabbed a wooden chair as one of the assailants approached from the left. I started swinging the chair to protect my family and other elderly patrons in our corner,” the man says in a written statement. “Suddenly, another assailant charged at me from the right. He was violently swinging a metal baton. The terrorist swung two or three times at my head and face. Thank God I was able to block the brunt (of) his attack with the chair.”
The witness said he shared his account because he wants people to patronize The Ashford House, 7959 W. 159th St. He suffered a gash to his head, and one of his hands was still swollen days after the attack. But his injuries did not prevent him from dispensing some justice of his own.
“When I was fending them off, I realized my head was bleeding. And my hand was really hurting,” he said. “But when one of those guys said, ‘Don’t let him up,’ I ran across the room and hit him as hard as I could in the face with a chair.”