Knockout punch kills man, 78, after Lacey diner biker brawl, owner says
LACEY — A fight between two women outside the Lakeside Diner on Wednesday turned fatal when a 78-year-old man got punched in the head by another man, the eatery's owner said.
Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said that after an argument between members of a motorcycle club inside the diner, owner Brian Brindisi told everyone involved to leave.
The group got into a second argument in the parking lot of the diner on Route 9 in the Forked River section. That's when Edward Chandler, 54, of Manalapan, struck Robert Clarke with a closed fist causing Clarke to fall to the ground, according to Billhimer.
Chandler was arrested and charged with aggravated assault. He has not been charged with causing the victim's death, although more charges may be filed.
“This is an active and ongoing investigation. We are continuing to interview potential witnesses, and are awaiting the results of Mr. Clarke’s post-mortem examination by the Ocean County Medical Examiner. I fully expect that additional charges will be forthcoming,” Billhimer said in a written statement.
Brindisi told the Townsquare News Network that some women got into a "altercation" in the parking lot. Brindisi, a Navy veteran, said he went outside to break it up.
"It seemed like they were at the point where they were splitting the two women up and this gentleman that lost his life was walking across the parking lot and another individual — I don't know why or what happened — but he punched this guy," Brindisi said. "When the guy hit the ground, he hit the head on the pavement."
Brindisi said it was the weekly "Bike Night" at the diner, which made headlines this summer for repeatedly ignoring rules limiting restaurants to takeout and outdoors service only.
Brindisi said that after being at the diner until 2 a.m., he woke up Thursday morning to the news that the man had died after being flown to Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
"It was just so senseless. This thing was just so senseless and so fast it happened. Two families' lives are just completely changed," Brindisi said. "My heart goes out to his family."
Brindisi said they were members of the "Wawa Crew," a group of motorcyclists that formed a group during the pandemic.
"All I know is that this group of people have done so many good things for the community. I'm in shock over this. They've been going putting together birthday rides for the seniors. They do so many good things," Brindisi said, including a food drive at the Lakeside during a Bike Night.