A fight involving roughly 10 people that allegedly stemmed from a murder drew viral attention when a baby was caught up in the fracas. Another controversy was sparked when a social media account went on a racist rant in reaction to a recording of the melee (video below).
On Dec. 18, Mariesha Williams was allegedly attacked by several people while shopping at the Edison Mall in Fort Myers, Florida. The incident, filmed by bystander David Milburn, descended into chaos as several people joined into the fray.
Milburn's video showed one woman who had been pushing a stroller as she joined the assault. The woman, with a baby in tow, kicked Williams across the face. Williams chased after the woman, who left the baby behind before eventually trailing back to roll the stroller away.
Capt. Jay Rodriguez of the Fort Myers Police Department said the brawl had already broken up when he and his officers arrived on the scene.
"Upon arrival, the incident had already dissipated and police did not find a confrontation going on," Rodriguez said in a statement, according to the News-Press. "Approximately two hours later police were called back to the mall in reference to apparent injuries that occurred previously and spoke to complainants."
Williams, 20, and Verdasia Eleaby told authorities they had been attacked and that they planned to press charges. So far, only a report of simple battery has been filed. The Florida Department of Children and Families is currently investigating the woman who was seen pushing the stroller.
The incident apparently was precipitated by the double murder of Samuel Jones and Eric Young in Lehigh Acres, Florida. On Dec. 16, both Jones and Young were found shot to death inside in a house that showed signs of breaking and entering. The murders are under investigation, according to WBBH.
Williams told authorities the attack against her was related to the homicides, WFTX reports.
Williams said one of her aggressors approached her and said that Jones' "blood is on your hands."
Milburn's video of the incident went viral on Facebook, where it sparked another controversy. The account of Linda Deverso-Pakulis, the wife of Lt. Chip Pakulis of the Lee County Sheriff's Office, made a profane and racist comment on the video, referring to the primarily black participants in the fight as "n*****s."
"Yep filthy n*****s! ... Send them back to Africa!" Deverso-Pakulis' account wrote. "World peace with then begin!"
The post ignited outrage in Southwest Florida, given Deverso-Pakulis' relationship to a member of local law enforcement. Deverso-Pakulis issued a statement asserting that her account had been hacked and that she had not written the racist post.
"Late last night someone posted under my name comments regarding an altercation that took place at the Edison Mall," Deverso-Pakulis said. "As a result I notified Facebook that my account was compromised and I deactivated the account at that time. I am appalled about the comments that were made, neither I nor my family share these beliefs."
Undersheriff Carmine Marceno condemned the post and said "we're using an abundance of caution and we're conducting an internal review of this incident."