The alleged altercation that occurred between actor Wendell Pierce and a small group of visitors at an Atlanta hotel—a confrontation that reportedly began as a political disagreement over Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton—was more violent and “crazier” than initially reported, according to a witness who opened up to The Daily Beast on Monday evening.
“We were thinking, ‘What were we gonna do if he got into the room?’” said a person present during the incident, and who asked to remain anonymous due to unwanted media attention.
Pierce, best known for playing Detective William “Bunk” Moreland from HBO’s hit TV series The Wire, was arrested around 4 a.m. on Saturday at Atlanta’s midtown Loews Hotel after a fight broke out, supposedly over politics. (Pierce was arrested on simple battery and booked before being released on $1,000 bail.) According to the Atlanta Police Department report, both parties “began a conversation about politics which got Mr. Pierce upset.” Pierce, a staunch Hillary Clinton supporter, was apparently infuriated when he learned he was talking to Bernie Sanders fans. The big fight did not begin at the hotel bar, but on the 23rd floor, after Pierce allegedly followed the three Sanders fans back to their room.
The source, who was staying with the three involved in the altercation, said he was asleep in the hotel room when suddenly around 3:30 a.m. he heard “yelling and banging” at the door. By the time he had gotten up, the other hotel guests—including Maggie Elena Baca, who has been identified as the alleged victim—had burst into the room, frantically trying to keep the door shut.
“I went to the door, and Maggie, and her boyfriend, and her cousin had just come in,” the source recounted. “Her cousin is leaning her back against the door and feet against the wall trying to keep the door closed, and the boyfriend is trying to get Mr. Pierce’s hands off his girlfriend… He was trying to force his way into the room, and had a handful of Maggie’s hair, and yanking on the hair, and swinging his arm around.”
According to the eyewitness, Pierce’s arm and one of his legs were visible in the hotel room, with the door pressed against them. The source says he tried to help get Baca out of harm’s way, and that he tried to run to his phone to call for help.
Meanwhile, a woman who had accompanied Pierce was screaming from the 23rd-floor hallway.
“She was [on the other side of the door repeatedly] shouting, ‘Wendell, stop it, Wendell, stop it,’” the source said.
Wendell then loudly claimed that “they’re pulling me in,” but nobody in the room was tugging on him, according to the source.
Finally, Baca and her friends relented for a moment, so they could open the door slightly, hoping that Pierce would back away and leave. Then the alleged assault continued, the guest said.
“He then charged the door, again,” the source said. “He then kept swinging, and hit [Maggie] a couple times, fairly hard, on the side of her head and on top of her head. He never got fully in the room. But it was then that Maggie’s boyfriend shouted, ‘I’m gonna get a knife.’”
At that moment, the actor/political activist stopped, and pulled his arm out from the doorway, the guest said. The confused and startled group of four were then able to close the door. The friends called security, who contacted the police. Baca subsequently informed the cops that she wished to press charges.
The source who was present during Pierce’s alleged siege of the hotel room characterized the whole affair as both “crazy” and “scary.”
“None of us knew [initially] that he was famous,” he said. “Maggie is pretty overwhelmed by the amount of attention this is getting. They told me he was talking politics [with them earlier] and telling them they should vote for Hillary. They told him they were voting for Bernie and they didn’t agree with Hillary, and then he started pushing them… They went back upstairs to avoid getting in a confrontation with a guy much larger than them.”
The source is now back home after the unexpectedly chaotic weekend, away from Atlanta, Georgia. The group is still trying to process everything that happened.
“We are as confused about it as everyone else,” he said. “It was crazy. And as soon as we found out he was a celebrity who was well connected politically, it was every crazier… This all seemed like some random person; we wouldn’t expect it to turn out to be a celebrity who’s not known for doing stuff like this.”
The eyewitness mentioned that he had seen the actor in films and TV, including The Wire: “I watched him on The Wire... I liked his character on The Wire.”
Accounts of the incident that came to light on Monday diverged from the reporting and narrative from over the weekend.
“The incident did not rise to anything significant so no special notification was made,” said Atlanta police spokesman Donald Hannah in a statement. “It was treated like any other arrest a patrol officer conducts.”
Sources contacted on Sunday by The Daily Beast had said that Baca had stepped into an altercation already under way between her boyfriend and the actor. There was no mention of what allegedly took place at the hotel room.
Pierce did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Daily Beast.