PHILADELPHIA - The instigator of a brutal fight that ended with a New York Rangers fan lying stunned in the middle of a Philadelphia intersection faces assault charges stemming from the altercation between rival hockey fans following the NHL Winter Classic, police said Friday.
Dennis Veteri was charged Thursday with aggravated and simple assault and other counts stemming from the Jan. 2 fight following the outdoor matchup between the Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.
Police said Veteri threw the punch that turned a verbal dispute physical, then landed a blow that knocked an off-duty police officer and Iraq war veteran unconscious.
"This was a very, very vicious beating," said police Capt. Laurence Nodiff.
Veteri, of Glassboro, N.J., was arrested Thursday and released on bail Friday morning after his arraignment. A phone listing for him could not immediately be located and it wasn't clear whether he had an attorney.
Nodiff said Veteri and two other men were the clear aggressors after Rangers fans showed up at an intersection that features two of Philadelphia's iconic cheesesteak stands.
A video of the fight posted on YouTube shows a man police identified as Veteri whipping off his coat and throwing a punch, sparking a melee that ends with Woodbridge Township, N.J., police officer Neal Auricchio lying in the pavement after being punched.
"As we all saw on the video it is a vicious beating with the conclusion of a knock down punch which knocks the police officer unconscious," Nodiff said.
Investigators said Auricchio suffered serious facial injuries that will require reconstructive surgery.
Police said the video drew tips that eventually led them to Veteri by way of a credit card receipt from another restaurant at the intersection that was paid just before the fight.
Online court records show Veteri has a history of arrests in Philadelphia, including a guilty plea following a 1998 aggravated assault arrest.
Veteri is due back in court Jan. 31 for a preliminary arraignment.