LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - His job is to provide legal representation and advice to the City of Lake Charles, but attorney Billy Loftin has had his own legal issues to resolve in connection with a fight at a local bar last November. That fight, and Loftin's participation in it, was caught on video.
If you head south on Big Lake Road, you may notice Fred's Lounge just after the pontoon bridge over the intracoastal waterway. It's a favorite with locals and those who work in the area. But on the night of November 13th and early morning the 14th, Lake Charles City Attorney Billy Loftin, his wife Phyllis and others went there as a group. Before the night was over, Billy Loftin was in a fist fight. The surveillance camera in the bar captured the fisticuffs which seems to have started with words and quickly erupted into a physical fight.
You can see Loftin deliver several blows to a man - he raises his fist above his head and comes down with several punches. You also see Loftin's wife Phyllis appear to try to intervene early on but ultimately get shoved into the sharp corner of the bar in the midst of the brawl.
According to legal papers, she suffered a broken rib and a cracked rib - yet the fray continued. After it appeared to be over, the camera captures Loftin going behind the bar in apparent pursuit of the man he's been fighting. The camera also captures the bartender jump up on the bar twice - evidently shouting for people to leave and eventually calling for law enforcement.
We spoke to Loftin to find out how he explains his behavior. He says he was not the instigator.
Loftin: "It was just an unfortunate event with an aggressive patron and just unavoidable." Reporter: "You say it was a case of self defense?" Loftin: "Absolutely." Reporter: "Explain that because I've looked at the video and if the other guy was the aggressor, it's not clear to me what he did in terms of aggression. Loftin: "I'm just going to let the video speak for itself. We could talk about it and speculate on it for hours. I didn't go up and shove anyone else until the fight broke out and I had already been threatened by that gentlemen."
Though he doesn't give details of the threat.
"There was a verbal threat from a gentleman and ultimately a fight broke out that I felt threatened by," said Loftin.
While it does not appear any criminal charges or other civil suits resulted from the fight, the bar owner sued for payment of Loftin's bar tab in the amount of $690. A check was written that night but then a stop payment was issued. A counter suit by Loftin blamed the bar for Phyllis' injuries and for not providing security. But Loftin says he's paid the tab and the suit is being dismissed. "Since this is obviously going to be scrutinized because of my position, as opposed to the facts, we decided to just pay it. It's not worth it. All of the litigation has been settled. The suit has been dismissed, or will be dismissed, and all of the charges as far as I'm concerned have all been rejected."
The video itself is in the public record in connection with the lawsuit. The attorney for Fred's declined to speak on camera, but attorney Claude Devall says "The video speaks for itself. Loftin and/or a member of his group started a fight at Fred's. After the first fight was over, Mr. Loftin...initiated the second fight...[and now is] attempting to get out of paying his bill by suing Fred's...claiming that Fred's...is responsible for injuries his wife allegedly sustained during the fight. A fight...initiated by Mr. Loftin and his group."
Devall said his number one goal is to get Loftin to pay the bar tab he and his friends drank that night. And that says Loftin is taken care of.
The city attorney is appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council and is the equivalent of a city department head.
Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach issued the following statement:
"The City of Lake Charles has been informed that City Attorney Billy Loftin is presently involved in a civil matter stemming from an incident that occurred in November of last year. This is an unfortunate situation for all parties concerned. Mr. Loftin understands the seriousness of the matter. However, this is a personal, civil situation that did not involve the City of Lake Charles in any way. It did not occur in the City and Mr. Loftin was not involved in any official City capacity. I have asked Mr. Loftin to brief the City Council members individually as to the basic facts of this incident. We will continue to monitor the situation.