An Independence Day barbecue turned bloody for a Riverhead family when a group of people instigated a brawl that sent four women to a hospital with stab wounds, two of whom were later arrested on assault charges, police and one of the alleged victims said.
Shermaine Roberson, 39, of Shirley was at her sister-in-law’s Oakland Drive North house Monday for a party attended by about 20 children as well as relatives from Virginia when she said two female acquaintances — backed by about 30 people — arrived on the scene about 9 p.m. and some from the crowd began circling the property and her car.
“A group of girls came walking down,” Ms. Roberson, a mother of five, said Tuesday morning, just hours after she was released from the hospital. “I said, ‘No disrespect, but why are you leaning on my car?’”
She said she started taking off her jewelry in case she was attacked. Moments later, the brawl broke out.
Ms. Roberson’s sister-in-law, 28-year-old Kiesha Moore of Riverhead — who Ms. Roberson said tried to help her — was stabbed by Shinnequa Dean, 29, of Mastic during the melee, and 27-year-old Tanisha Whitley of Riverhead allegedly attacked Ms. Roberson, cutting her face, chest, wrist and back, according to a criminal complaint read aloud Tuesday in Riverhead Town Justice Court.
Police said folding knives were used during the fight, which occurred in front of the children attending the barbecue.
“We had all the kids crying,” Ms. Roberson confirmed.
Riverhead Police responded to the scene, which is just off Doctors Path north of Northville Turnpike, about 9:30 p.m. after a 911 caller reported that a large group was fighting on the block, officials said.
The large crowd was still there when police arrived and officers found Ms. Moore and Ms. Roberson bleeding and in need of medical attention, police said. Both women, whom police said had been stabbed multiple times during the melée, were taken via ambulance to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead for treatment. Ms. Roberson said the pair was released about 1 a.m.
Police located the two other women involved in the fight at the same hospital hours later.
Police said Ms. Dean and Ms. Whitley also suffered stab wounds and had taken a personal vehicle to the hospital. Ms. Roberson maintains she and Ms. Moore were unarmed during the fight — and that the alleged attackers had inadvertently stabbed themselves in the chaos. She also said she will need cosmetic surgery to repair a wound on her face, and during an interview showed a reporter stitched wounds across her face, chest and hip.
Both suspects were charged with second-degree assault.
Wearing a court-issued paper jumpsuit and socks, Ms. Whitley pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday morning in Riverhead Town Justice Court. Ms. Dean, dressed in street clothes but wearing similar court-issued socks, also pleaded not guilty.
Town Justice Allen Smith told the women the grand jury would review the case and that the charges could be upgraded. The judge also accused Ms. Whitley of not taking the charge seriously.
“Let’s [understand] the context of where we are,” he said.
Both women were released after posting $1,000 bail. Neither could be reached for comment.
Ms. Roberson said Ms. Whitley had targeted her during the attack because she was interested in Ms. Roberson’s boyfriend.
“I got little kids,” said Ms. Roberson said. “This ain’t me.”