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Armed Uber driver records altercation with old Boston tough wielding a razor knife

It's challenging to identify who made the greatest errors in this incident that took place north of Boston.

This is an object lesson, over and over, in what not to do.

The video begins outside OYummy Asian Bistro, in Haverhill, a town in northeastern Massachusetts. An Uber driver named Sam Racioppi is waiting for his fare. Suddenly he sees an old man thrown out of the establishment, and starts to record the incident.

What Happened

An elderly man is prone on his side, with three men hovering over him; one, who is wearing a green sweater, is holding the old man, and strikes him in the face.

A fifth character enters the screen. He's a bantamweight rooster, walks with a pronounced limp, has a hat on backwards, and sports a chinstrap beard. The man in the green sweater heads back to the bar, and the old man rises. He is clearly drunk, and hurls challenges and insults; these the man in green ignores as he walks back into the bar.

Hat Backwards then yells at the old man, and restrains him, telling him to "STAY STILL ... you put your hands on me, you're going to swallow your f***ing teeth; I'm doing this for you."

The old man then reveals he is 60 years old, homeless, hails from Southie (once a storied working-class, predominantly Irish neighbourhood in South Boston), and plans to sue the restaurant. An Asian man who later identifies himself as the owner, is nearly the only figure in this tale whose behaviour is normal. He tucks a receipt in the old man's pocket, and directs him to his takeout order; the owner later explains that the police have already been called.

Hat Backwards is yelling at the old man to walk away, while holding him. The old man starts getting more belligerent. Then two women exit the bar and enter the scene. In an apparent attempt to calm things, one of them, Anita, begins screaming loudly, and hitting the old man on the shoulder with an open hand. Hat Backwards asks her to go inside, which she does.

As Anita heads back towards the bar, the cameraman wisely suggests she call the police. Anita then yells at the cameraman.

Meanwhile, Hat Backwards says he will release the old drunk, and he should leave. Although barely able to walk, the old man escalates, vowing, "I will f***ing stab you." As he says this, he reaches into his pocket. Despite the warning, Hat Backwards is apparently entirely unaware the old man now has his hand on a drywall knife.

As Hat Backwards releases his grip, the blade come out. Inexplicably, Hat Backwards grips the old man's left arm, while the razor in the right. Three times the old man makes a drunken attempt to slice Hat Backwards, who continues to hold the wrist, while evading the stumbling slashes.

Then Anita reenters the scene.

"HE HAS A KNIFE," she screams. Then she rushes forward, screams "STOP IT," and repeatedly grabs Hat Backwards, impeding his movement. Movement is what is saving him from getting slashed.

Hat Backwards still will not release the man, who is physically threating to slice the hand that holds him. 

Anita twice explains to all, at the top of her lungs, that the man who has a knife, "HAS A KNIFE," while pawing at Hat Backward's arm.

Suddenly there is a voice of reason.

"Everybody except for this guy inside, now," a man says clearly. "Get these guys inside, now."

First both and then one of the woman are unable to get through the door to safety, before the drunk old man stumbles forward threatening mayhem and slashing with the blade.

The cameraman suggests to the woman who can't get through the door that she can get into his car.

The old man, although he is staggering drunk, attempts to slap Hat Backwards. Then he threatens to, "cut you dead."

Hat Backwards could have closed the door, but the remaining woman outside is his wife. There is finally space for her to slip in too, and as she does so, she drags Hat Backwards with her. 

The door is locked. Crisis averted.

The old man shouts a few more death threats, picks up his takeout, and stumbles off, only to engage the cameraman in a conversation. The old man is now feeling sorry himself, complaining that they hurt him. Then the cameraman ups the parade of fools so far, and rebukes the old man.

"You pulled a blade on them, man," says Racioppi.

The old man says, "I had to."

Racioppi later reported he was carrying a handgun, which may have fueled the unfathomably stupid dialogue that follows. He is faced with a man blind drunk, who has been threatening to kill people, and has a razor in his hand. The police as about to arrive.

"No you didn't, I watched the whole thing," says Racioppi," adding ironically, "you could have just walked away."

The old man then tries to verbally defend his actions, as Racioppi continues to rebuke him. When the old man gets too close, Racioppi warns him away. As the man walks away, the cameraman appears to follow, but then says he is walking to his car; as he does so, he continues to argue with the belligerent drunk. The argument continues, with the cameraman not returning to his car.

At that point, the single sanest line of the evening was uttered by, of all people, the drunk old man.

"The Chinese guy was nice," he said. "I got my Chinese food." 

The talk continues and then the police arrive. After they are in the process of handcuffing the old man, the cameraman warns them, "he's got a blade on him somewhere."

The Cameraman's Explanation

"I'm the guy who recorded the encounter, and there are a handful of criticisms in the comments--many are legit," he wrote in the comment section when ASP broke the incident down.

"First off, when the encounter first happened, I had no idea what was going to transpire. All I saw was the old guy getting violently thrown out of the bar. Since I had no idea what was going on, I figured the best thing to do is record. Mainly it was in case the group of people started beating him. Would you want to go against a group of drunks? Probably not. At that point in time, there was zero reason to call the police.

"After the initial confrontation where the group ejected the guy from the bar, the situation should have ended. Guy with the baseball cap continued putting his hands on the old man. I continued recording, again, because I thought the old guy might get assaulted.

"Then the knife came out. I thought to myself that everyone would go inside and disengage. Of course not, not when alcohol is involved. At that point, I realized that the video I was recording would be evidence of a crime against the old man, so I continued recording.

"Once the blade came out, I figured the entire group would disengage and go inside the bar. No such luck. I considered drawing my firearm, but I knew once that happened it may escalate the situation AND I would end up dealing with the police FOR SURE. The old man really didn't seem like much of a threat. He could easily have been dealt with by controlling the arm and delivering a solid punch to his face or stomach. Guy definitely looked pretty frail and intoxicated. Or the group could have just gone inside. 

"After the group finally separated and got inside, I continued recording. Sure, you can criticize me for verbally engaging with the old man, fine. I was sober, and I train in something called Krav Maga, and I'm prior combat arms. NO, I was not looking for a reason to shoot him. Anyone who thinks like that should not have a firearm. At no point was the old guy in close enough range to harm me. The video seems like he was closer than he really was. We always had a safe separation between us, and I am confident in my empty-handed skills.

"When I walked to my car, I thought about getting in and leaving. I really did. But I also realized that this guy was dangerous and the police would be looking for him. If I left the scene, the old guy might also get away before the police showed up. So I decided to stay with a safe distance between us. At that point the police arrived and took him into custody.

"Criticize away. I certainly would have done that situation better after going through it once. I should have used verbal judo to separate the group and get them to go inside. I also could have physically intervened, but would have had to stop recording. I do not regret NOT pulling my gun at all. I also do not regret recording the video, which was immediately turned over to the police.

"Oh and it turns out the old man was the ride I was waiting for. The police pointed to his phone after the arrest and noted that the Uber app was running, and that the driver (me) cancelled the pickup."


The Lesson

The best self-defense advice is to avoid drunk people.

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