Man Punched 'Captain Jay,' Witnesses Say
An intoxicated man bragging that he was a boxer punched a 66-year-old Gulfport resident affectionately known as Captain Jay.
John Michael Lees, 32, of Gulfport was arrested on the charge of aggravated battery on an elderly person, a felony, on Sunday.
Witnesses say Lees approached 66-year-old John Burki, known as Captain Jay, and punched him in the face, knocking out a tooth and knocking him to the ground. According to the report Lees "bragged that he was a boxer," to officers.
John Burki has been living off and on, on his boat, "Promise," which is stuck in the sand on Gulfport Beach. Burki told officers he saw Lees "drinking and being loud on the beach with his friends" around 9:30 Sunday night.
Burki was walking by one of the pavilions to the parking lot when he says Lees approached him and "made a comment to him about his voice being deep." That's when Burki says Lees said something else and then hit him on the right side of his face, according to the report.
A witness across the street heard the commotion, looked over and saw Burki screaming and lying on the ground. She told officers she heard the suspect's friends scream at him and yell, "Why did you do that?"
The woman then saw Lees and his friends leave the scene, speeding away in a blue SUV.
A second witness also told police he heard Lees drinking and being loud near the restrooms and he heard Lees and Burki exchange words about Burki having a deep voice. He then saw Lees punch Burki and also witnessed the group leave in a blue SUV.
While Officer Tiffany Ashcom was heading toward the beach to respond, Officer Santo Nicita pulled over the blue SUV near 26th Ave and 54th St. S. for speeding.
Three people, including Lees, and two young children (under the age of six) were in the SUV. According to the report, the officer stated that it appeared the occupants switched drivers by the time Nicita approached the SUV. There was a man and a woman in the front with Lees sitting in the back seat with the children.
Officer Nicita arrested Lees for the charge of aggravated battery on an elderly person. Lees told the officer that Burki whistled at "two little girls" so he punched him. It was then that Lees bragged to officers about being a boxer.
According to the report, Lees caused permanent disfigurement by knocking out Burki's tooth. Burki also recieved bruises on his left arm and knees and swelling and bruising on his right cheek. Officer Ashcom says later she found out he had a broken jaw.
Burki was checked on scene by the Gulfport Fire Department and medically released that night.
Many residents in Gulfport know Burki as Captain Jay and have heard about the publicized efforts to pull his boat "Promise" off the beach on Wednesday. A group that is helping organize the volunteer event posted on their Facebook page that Burki was at the VA hospital on Monday.
"Prognosis is good, however, we do not know when he will be released. The (hospital stay) will not side-track the efforts to move the boat."
Volunteers are asking people to show up tomorrow, Aug. 1, at 8 a.m. to help empty the boat, dig out the keel and pull it off the beach.