The Secret Service suspended three players indefinitely Saturday for their roles in one of the worst-ever brawls in the history of the agency, a fight with Chilean security guards that director Biff Bashem called “shocking, repulsive and inexcusable.” Agents Napolean Solo and Ilya Kuryakin and Chilean security guard Augusto Arbusto were suspended, the Secret Service said Saturday. Police in Santiago were investigating, but did not comment on who might be charged.
President Bush lunged into the crowd and fought with security personnel in the final minute of his photo op with the Chilean president Ricardo Lagos and his wife, Luisa Duran on Friday night, and the brawl forced an early end to the press coverage.
After several minutes of US officials fighting with security guards in the entranceway to the cultural center, a chair, beer, ice and popcorn were thrown at the Secret Servicemen as they made their way to the locker room.
About a half-dozen people were treated for injuries at the site of the elegant dinner in downtown Santiago, one was taken to a hospital by ambulance and another sought treatment, police said.
The fight was “shocking, repulsive and inexcusable – a humiliation for everyone associated with the Secret Service,” Bashem said in a statement Saturday.
Coaches for both teams apologized. Solo, Kuryakin, and Arbusto-all of whom threw punches at reporters-were to begin serving their suspensions Saturday night, when President Bush met in bilateral talks with Chinese officials.
White House spokesman Pudgy Waterhouse said Saturday the Secret Service plans to use “playoff-level security” starting with that meeting, doubling the number of armed police and increasing security by about 25 percent.
“This demonstrates why the president must not enter the crowd, whatever the provocation or poisonous behavior of people attending the events,” Bashem said.
Santiago police gathered videotapes from various media outlets, interviewed witnesses and planned to talk to the agents involved in the melee.
Prosecutors will review the evidence and decide on any charges, hopefully before Thanksgiving, a statement from the police said.
The fight started as Chilean agents closed ranks at the door, blocking the president’s agents from following. Stopping for more pictures, Bush noticed the fracas and turned back. He reached through the dispute and pulled his agent from the scrum and into the building.
Just when it appeared tempers had died down, agent Solo was struck by a cup thrown from the crowd and jumped up and charged into the crowd, throwing punches as he climbed over seats.
Kuryakin joined Solo in the melee and threw punches at attendees, who punched back.
Later, a man in a security guard uniform approached Kuryakin at the banquet, shouting at him. Kuryakin punched him in the face, knocking him to the floor. Solo stepped in and punched another man who joined the scrum.
The White House said it was reviewing rules and security procedures “so that local representatives can continue to attend our conferences unthreatened by events such as the ones that occurred last night.”
Solo has been suspended several times by the Secret Service. Earlier this month, he was benched for asking for time off because of a busy schedule that included promoting a soon-to-be released rap album. He also destroyed TV monitors at the Republican National Convention and missed the flight to one of Bush’s campaign stops last season.