Bar employees: Victim threw first punch

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Two employees of the bar where LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson and three teammates are accused of injuring four people in a parking lot brawl said Thursday that one of the victims "threw the first punch" shortly after he had been escorted outside by staff.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Shady's Bar general manager John Peak and door manager Jordan Neldare offer versions of the bar fight that differ from details in a police report released Thursday. Neldare said he was outside and witnessed the fight firsthand but had not yet been interviewed by police.

There have been no arrests and no charges have been filed in the incident, but Baton Rouge police have said one of the alleged brawlers had three fractured vertebrae, which is serious enough to bring felony second-degree battery charges against whoever caused those injuries.

Both bar employees said Andrew Lowery, who has been identified by police as one of the victims, was asked to leave the bar around 1:30 a.m. last Friday when he appeared to be harassing a young woman.

Lowery did not challenge Neldare and two other staff members who confronted him, but within minutes of walking into the parking lot, he was in the midst of the fight, the bar employees said.

"What we do know is that Lowery threw the first punch," said Peak, who has interviewed staff about what happened. "That's one thing we do know and we will attest to -- and he had been kicked out of the bar."

The police report said Lowery told investigators he was running to the aid of an unknown man who had been pulled from a pickup truck by men he believed were LSU football players. Lowery told police that he was able to help the man back into his truck and was assaulted soon after by several people -- including Jefferson and LSU linebacker Josh Johns -- who Lowery said punched and kicked him repeatedly.

The report said police were later contacted by a 19-year-old woman named Victoria Long, who said she witnessed several LSU players beating Lowery and saw Jefferson kick Lowery in the face.

The four football players -- who have not talked publicly since the incident -- have hired defense attorney Nathan Fisher, who has represented LSU players in the past.

Lowery and three others who sought treatment at hospitals also have an attorney, Michael Bienvenue.

Neither attorney returned phone calls seeking comment on Thursday's developments.

According to the account Long gave to police, the fight began because one of the other alleged victims had yelled from his truck at the occupants of another vehicle that was blocking his path.

Neldare, however, said fighting involving Lowery had already begun when the truck pulled up sharply to the edge of the melee.

"That truck stopped right in the middle of the whole altercation," he said.

Neldare said he had gotten a good look at the beginning of the fight after jumping in the back of a co-worker's pickup truck to get a better view, but his attention was diverted when he saw a fellow employee walking toward the fracas.

Neldare said he ran to the co-worker and corralled him away from the brawl, back toward the bar entrance, where he then noticed Jefferson, standing by himself and looking upset while the fight was still taking place.

"I'm not saying (Jefferson) wasn't in the fight. I'm not saying he was, but I did see him standing alone while stuff was still going on," Neldare said.

Before the fight erupted outside the bar, Peak and Neldare said Jefferson and numerous other teammates had been inside for a couple hours and that there was no sign of trouble with any of the players.

Earlier, Jefferson had spent a few minutes playfully assisting with the music in the bar's DJ booth, the bar employees said.

Peak and Neldare also noted that while Lowery was apparently arguing with the unidentified woman inside the bar, Jefferson, who was wearing sunglasses, walked past them as if he did not notice the argument or know either Lowery or the woman. Jefferson then hugged another young woman before walking outside, shortly before Lowery left.

The bar employees' accounts of what happened inside the bar can be seen on security video, which was shown to the AP.

"When we were escorting Lowery out, you can see Jefferson right there and he has nothing to do with it," said Peak, who did not see what happened in the parking lot outside the club. "He doesn't look at (Lowery). He doesn't say a word. He acted like he didn't even know who they were."

Police said four people, none of them football players, were treated at a hospital and released in the early-morning hours after the fight.

Authorities have not identified the three other than Lowery and have not specified who had the most serious injuries.

However, the police report said Lowery initially declined medical attention before later going to a hospital on his own.

Police have named Jefferson, Johns, offensive lineman Chris Davenport and receiver Jarvis Landry a people of interest in the fight.

All four were interviewed by investigators on Tuesday.

Then on Wednesday, police executed a search warrant of Jefferson's apartment and took 49 pairs of shoes, along with a DNA swab.

Fourth-ranked LSU opens its season Oct. 3 against No. 3 Oregon in Dallas. Jefferson was expected to start, but that could change if he is charged.

In the meantime, coach Les Miles has not suspended Jefferson or the other teammates implicated in the fight. Jefferson has been recently sharing first-team work with fellow senior Jarrett Lee, and Miles said after practice Thursday speculating on LSU's quarterback situation next week "wouldn't do anybody any good right now."