Alabama boat fight: Woman who recorded asks, ‘What did they think was going to happen?’

A brawl alongside an Alabama river dock continues to draw nationwide attention and captivate social media. 

Videos of the incident, which are circulating widely on social media, have proven crucial in investigating what happened, Montgomery Police Chief Darryl Albert said. 

One of those videos belongs to Christa Owen, who was on the Harriet II riverboat for a dinner cruise with her husband and daughter. She began recording as she watched the fight begin from the boat’s balcony. Her video is one of the many being shared on social media and by news outlets. 

She says she was enjoying the view with her family as the boat was making its way back to shore the evening of Saturday, Aug. 5, when the captain began to make an announcement: "Black pontoon boat, move your boat." 

She said the captain made the request a couple of times over the loudspeaker as a handful of people ashore continued to dock and exit the pontoon boat. 

"They seemed to be disregarding his request," Owen remembers. "I think all of us that were standing there on the boat gave them the benefit of the doubt that maybe they didn't hear him. So we all in unison said, ‘Move your boat! Move your boat!’ – and they shrugged their shoulders. You know, they were looking at us. They made some gestures and they left. They left the boat, they left the dock."

Owen said moments later, a small ferry took the co-captain from the Harriet II to shore to move the boat himself.

"That's when I start video recording, because that was nuts that the gentleman wouldn't move their pontoon boat two feet forward so we could park," Owen said, and the co-captain and another, younger crew member can be seen pulling the rope to try to reposition the pontoon boat. 

Several people are then seen on video coming back down the dock’s ramp to confront the captain and a shouting match begins.

"It was clear that the men who were on the boat and the man who owned the boat were simply angry that anyone had the audacity to touch their boat and move it," Owen said. "What did they think was going to happen when a three-story river boat with 200 people couldn't come to shore? Like, what did you think was going to happen?" 

Dozens of people aboard the Harriet II clearly had the captain’s back, as several began chanting the lyrics, ‘Move (expletive), get out the way.’

Several minutes of the verbal argument went by before a man from the pontoon’s party took a running leap at the captain and shoved him back. Then the first brawl began.

"I'm recording just to show my family at home, you know, the crazy situation that ended (my daughter’s) birthday night, and then when the first punches were thrown, I thought, ‘Oh, I have to keep recording. This has gone mad,’" Owen said.

Her video shows several people run to the aid of both the pontoon party and the captain, largely splitting along racial lines. The boat captain is Black and the people in the pontoon party are white.

RELATED: Alabama boat fight: What happened, and who’s been charged so far

Owen said she felt helpless watching the fight unfold. 

"This poor man is just doing his job and all of us on the boat were helpless. He's helpless, but we can't do anything. We're forced spectators and it was really difficult," she shared.

"I understood the anger that was brewing in the people watching this because I'm watching it, too. This poor man. None of us can do anything. But then I saw one of our crewmen jump off and swim to shore. I'm like, OK, there's our hero. He's doing something to help."

Owen’s video didn’t show the crew member swimming to shore, though it’s a moment that has stood out to thousands on social media in other videos.

Owen said she knew immediately that she had to share her video to police as soon as possible to show how the situation escalated. 

"I don't have the (second) brawl on video, I only have what started it. And to me, that was all that mattered," Owen said. 

You can hear more from her and her thoughts on the situation in the video player above. 

A second, larger brawl broke out moments later, which has been more widely seen on videos circulating social media. 

Three white boaters will be charged with misdemeanor assault with more charges likely to come, police in Montgomery said earlier this week

Owen said she was pleased to hear about the charges. 

"I thought that's exactly what should have happened."

This story was reported from Detroit.