Zachery Chase Shipman is the owner of a Selma, Alabama, store named Vasser’s Mini Mart who is accused of assault in connection with a riverboat fight that was captured on a viral video.
The brawl broke out on Saturday, August 5, 2023, in nearby Montgomery, and video of the melee quickly went viral. Montgomery Police Chief Darryl Albert said in an August 8, 2023, news conference that police issued warrants for three men, including Shipman, who was described as a 25-year-old white male who is facing one warrant for assault in the third degree.
The other accused men were named by the police chief as Richard Roberts, 48, also a white male, who is accused of two warrants for assault in the third degree, and Allen Todd, a 23-year-old white male who faces one warrant for assault in the third degree. The charges are misdemeanors, according to the chief.
Police asked Reggie Gray, a 42-year-old Black male, to come into the police department to answer accusations he swung a folding chair. Albert said more charges are likely.
“I was the first to try to get away,” Shipman wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post, according to TMZ. On social media, people have accused Shipman of lying and using the incident to publicize the name of his business.
In the news conference, Albert said that a private boat had taken the docking space of the Harriott II riverboat, and people on private boat attacked the co-captain of the riverboat first when he tried to ask them to move. People on the riverboat then came to the co-captain’s defense, according to Albert, and the brawl ensued. He said that 13 people were detained, but all parties were released initially pending further investigation.
According to Albert, the victims in the brawl were the riverboat’s co-captain Damien Pickett, who is a Black male, and a 16-year-old white male juvenile who was “struck by the owners and operators of the private boat.” The teenager was an employee on the smaller vessel that took Pickett to the dock. He was assaulted by a person on the pontoon boat, according to Albert.
The registered agent for Vasser’s Mini Mart is Zachery C. Shipman, according to state of Alabama corporate filings. Other public records also give Chase Shipman’s name as Zachery Chase Shipman. The corporation’s formation date was listed as May 2023. No voicemail was set up, and no one answered at the number listed for the business.
Some sites have referred to Shipman as Zachary Shipman, but state corporate records give the spelling as Zachery C. Shipman.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Zachery Chase Shipman Is Accused of Writing That He ‘Tried to Get Away’ & ‘Tried to Stop it,’ But Police Say the People on the Private Boat Made Obscene Gestures & Taunts
In a deleted post that was screenshotted, Vasser’s Mini Mart is accused of writing,
“I am sure most of you have seen the news about the river boat incident. Yes, I was there, but I was the first to try to get away.”
The post continues, “You can see in the video I attached, and I do not condone what happened. I tried to stop it and realized that I could not, so I tried to get away. There is video of me being the first to run away because what was happening was wrong, and I did not want to be a part of it.”
The post added, “I realize I have a business to run and represent and no charges were filed against me because I was not involved. I know it was wrong and it should have never happened.”
Heavy is trying to authenticate several other screenshots of Facebook comments that people are accusing Vasser of making. There is already a parody site on Facebook in the business’s name making accusations of racism.
In the news conference, Albert said the brawl broke out at 7 p.m. According to the chief, the Harriott II river cruise ship was operating from a designated docking space along the Alabama River, taking people on tours. There were 227 passengers aboard the vessel.
He said the incident ignited between the co-captain of the riverboat, Pickett, and a private boat owner and his family. The Harriott II attempted to dock in its designated space but was prohibited from safe docking because the private boat was occupying the space, Albert said. The captain remained away from the dock for 45 minutes, trying to contact operators of the private boat with a public address system, the chief said, but they responded with obscene gestures, curse words and taunting.
He said the space is designated and reserved for the Harriott II due to gangway access and mooring requirements. According to Albert, the co-captain was brought to the pier by a separate vessel in an “attempt to have conversation with private boat owners so the Harriot could dock.”
At that time, he said, Pickett was “being attacked by several members of the private boat.” According to Albert, “several members of the Harriot II came to Mr. Pickett’s defense,” and that’s when the scenes in the viral video occurred.
The Harriott’s captain was the first to call police, Albert said, adding that Pickett was peacefully trying to get people to move the boat.
Obscene finger gestures and innuendos were made, Albert said. He said they examined whether there was enough evidence of racism to file hate crime charges in the case. It did not meet the criteria for that at the time of his statement, the chief said.
2. Chase Shipman Bought the Business From His Mother in June 2023 After Working for the Railroad
According to a June 2023 article in the Selma Times-Journal, “Chase Shipman is the new owner at Vassers. Shipman, 25, bought the business from his mother, Missy Calvert, on June 16.”
Shipman told the newspaper:
My parents have done this for the last 19 years. father passed away several years ago and I was working for the railroad. My mom wanted me to come in and learn the business because eventually he one day wanted to hand the business off to me. I started learning everything I could. I figured if I started learning at a young age and it took off like I was hoping then I could turn it into something good and possibly expand it. She was ready to sit back a little bit and sit watch. She will still help out a little bit but I decided it was now or never.
3. A Black Teen Has Been Lauded for ‘Jumping Into Action’
According to RadarOnline, a witness “said the fight started after an argument over a pontoon boat blocking the dock where a riverboat was trying to moor.”
A 16-year-old Black teen, identified only as “Aaron,” has been credited as a hero for “jumping into action and swimming across the water to help defend a Black man who was being attacked by a group of white dockers,” the site reported.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone who has been sending me money to help me get new boots. I promise I don’t need anymore than I already have. Thank you everyone for your support,” Aaren said in a statement provided by his publicist to RadarOnline. His last name was not given.
4. People Have Filled the Vasser’s Mini Mart Yelp Page With Negative Reviews Since the Controversy
The Google reviews for the business before the riverboat incident were mixed but contained many positive reviews. “The dressing was not dressing.. it was plain cornbread… The greens were canned greens & it’s tore my stomach up..” one person wrote. But another person wrote a year ago, “Good biscuit breakfast sandwiches. Dinner plates are slam full and yummy. We will be back.”
However, the business now has a single star on Yelp as a result of people writing reviews relating to the riverboat controversy. One woman wrote, “Just good ol boys, never meaning no harm, eh? I hope they run you all out of business!”
Yelp has suspended comments to the page. “This business recently received increased public attention resulting in an influx of people posting their views to this page, so we have temporarily disabled the ability to post here as we work to investigate the content,” Yelp wrote.
5. The Mayor Criticized ‘Several Reckless Individuals for Attacking a Man Who Was Doing His Job’
Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed released a statement on X (formerly Twitter) on August 6, 2023, decrying the incident in general. “Last night, the Montgomery Police Department acted swiftly to detain several reckless individuals for attacking a man who was doing his job. Warrants have been signed and justice will be served,” he wrote.
“This was an unfortunate incident which never should have occurred. As our police department investigates these intolerable actions, we should not become desensitized to violence of any kind in our community. Those who choose violence will be held accountable by our criminal justice system,” according to Reed.
The police chief said one of the three accused suspects is in custody, and the other two are expected to turn themselves in as well. He did not identify the person in custody.