Most of the furniture in Blacktip Island’s Heritage House was destroyed during Thursday’s drunken melee at a charity domino tournament to benefit the island’s school. (photo courtesy of Carnivalsman)
A brawl at a Blacktip Island charity domino tournament Thursday evening sent five people to the medical clinic and caused extensive damage to the island’s Heritage House, authorities said.
“James Conlee and Mr. Snapper, the schoolmaster, were trash talking before their match, and things got out of hand,” said tournament organizer Kay Valve. “One moment it was insults as usual, the next, punches were flying, tables were crashing and jerked chicken from the food stand was sailing everywhere.
“These matches are powder kegs,” Valve said. “Alcohol was factor, but we can’t ban consumption. That’s an integral part of the sport. We do tell folks to drink in moderation, but that means different things to different people. This is why we can’t have nice tournaments.”
Accounts varied about what provoked the melee.
“That damned Snapper started it,” James Conlee said. “He’s been palming tiles all tourney, you know. Slipping them out when he thinks no one’s looking. Acts all ‘it’s for the kids,’ but he’s a snake.”
Snapper disputed Conlee’s account.
“I was wearing a tank top and shorts. Where would I hide tiles?” he said. “It was James’ fault. He said my scooter was an eyesore, so I said, ‘well, so’s your wife.’ Then out of nowhere he just hit me for no reason. He’s crazy.
“This is the guy who put bird feed in my bug zapper two days ago, just to get inside my head,” Snapper said. “We were raising funds for the school. Now because of him, the kids have to pay for damages instead.”
Island authorities say the brawl escalated quickly.
“Lee Helm got too close, took an elbow to the teeth, then fell across Clete Horn and Antonio Fletcher’s game,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “Clete and ‘Tonio started punching anything that moved, and next thing you know, Christina Mojarra was swinging a chair like she was batting cleanup. She laid out a half-dozen people before we could take her down.
Five players were treated for minor injuries. Lee Helm was flown to Bottoms Memorial Medical Center on Tiperon to have domino tiles removed from his nasal cavities and other orifices.
“I don’t know how Lee got hurt to badly. He wasn’t even in the tournament,” Valve said. “Wrong place, wrong time, I suppose. Of course, he’s never been well-liked on the island, so people may have used the opportunity to settle old grudges.
“Bottom line, we’ve banned multiple players for life,” Valve said. “Or until the memory fades. Probably next Thursday.”