Cops probe melee at Neponset pizza shop

Three teenagers were injured Saturday night during a violent brawl outside a Papa Gino's restaurant on Gallivan Boulevard that witnesses said began with a racially-charged dispute between a restaurant employee and customers. Boston Police confirm that the incident is now being investigated by the Community Disorders Unit, which will make a recommendation on whether any civil rights violations occurred.

The dispute unfolded just after 8 p.m. last Saturday. Details of a police report shared with the Reporter indicate that a group of young white men said they were attacked by four black men - including a store employee - in the Papa Gino's parking lot. The report notes that three of the customers were beaten with a baseball bat and two were treated at local hospitals, with one sustaining a broken arm and one a head contusion. The latter was transported to Boston Medical Center for treatment. Paramedics treated a third man at the scene and released him from there. In addition, a vehicle belonging to one of the white men had its rear and side windows smashed out.

At least two witnesses told police that a dispute began inside the store when a black Papa Gino's employee taunted the white teens as they inquired as to the status of their pizza order.

"He stated something to effect of, 'I'll get some special sauce for these white boys,' " said Elaine Driscoll, a spokesman for the Boston Police Department, citing the witness accounts in the incident report.

An argument ensued in the store, according to the report, and the unidentified employee is alleged to have placed a phone call to friends to come to the scene.

What unfolded outside is not fully clear; the Reporter has been unable to discuss the situation with any of the alleged assailants. When reached by phone by the Reporter on Monday, a Papa Gino's employee at the Gallivan Blvd. store who identified herself as the manager on duty on Saturday night said she was too busy to discuss the incident and then abruptly hung up.

Michael McManama, the senior vice president of brand development at Papa Gino's, said the company would conduct its own investigation into what happened.

"We are aware there was an incident involving a Papa Gino's team member at a Papa Gino's restaurant on Saturday evening," McManama. "The incident is currently under investigation and we're cooperating with the authorities."

McManama said he preferred not to discuss what - if any - disciplinary action could be taken against the employee or his managers in the night in question.

A third victim connected to the attack - also a white male- spoke to police on Saturday night at New England Medical Center, where he went by himself with injuries to the head and arm. According to the victim, he had gone to the Papa Gino's at the request of friends who had told him that that they "were about to be attacked by a group of black kids."

When he went to defend one of his friends who was being assaulted, the individual told police, he was beaten about the stomach and head and sustained a broken arm when he tried to defend himself.

Police recovered a black aluminum bat from a nearby yard after they were called to the address by a neighbor who said it had been discarded by a group of black men who ran through the yard.

Witnesses told police that the alleged assailants fled from the area in a blue Toyota Corolla, according to Driscoll.

Detectives from the Boston Police district C-11 are investigating the case, according to Captain John Greland. Both Greland and Driscoll confirm that the case has also been referred to the BPD's Community Disorders Unit, which will assign a detective to determine whether anyone will face civil rights charges stemming from the assaults.

"Anything that indicates that a crime may have occurred as the result of a prejudice would be referred to the Community Disorders Unit," Driscoll said. "The statement that suspect made would bring the incident to level of the CDU."

Sean Weir, the president of the Cedar Grove Civic Association, said the incident has reverberated through that section of the neighborhood, where at least one of the victims live. The fact that the incident happened at the 8 p.m. hour - when many families are still frequenting the pizza store - made the incident even more disturbing, Weir said.

"I'm just totally appalled that an employee that works there - or at any business - would do this," Weir said. "This just shouldn't happen at a family restaurant, no matter who owns it. It just blows my mind. It's a disgrace. It makes all of the other Papa Gino's and fast food places look bad."