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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.

kenneth m Taylor August 01, 2012 at 03:55 AM
If those little girls are his, he should lose custody!
Nancy Kelley August 01, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Another example of why we need police to be present in the beach area. There is an ordinance against drinking on the beach.
Jennifer S August 01, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Some people really should not drink. And that's pretty spectacular that they all decided to leave the injured man on the beach. Are the other adults facing any charges?
Cherlene Willis August 01, 2012 at 11:34 AM
Jennifer S, Not that I know of. - Cherlene
Potter Shaw August 02, 2012 at 03:01 PM
In my 75 years, I've had more than my share of beverage; However Florida stands out as a state where bars seemingly escape any liability for serving obviously intoxicated patrons. Bars seem to encourage excess consumption. I don't know what level of government is responsible for controlling this problem, but if enough people get angry, it might help.
merryman1888 August 05, 2012 at 08:01 AM
Nancy Kelley wrote: "Another example of why we need police to be present in the beach area. There is an ordinance against drinking on the beach." No, I absolutely disagree. That would only accelerate our, already in-crouching, overbearing police country into a complete 'police state'. Because, it is inevitable that more police or government involvement will result in corruption. What we need is less police and government involvement, and more civilian involvement. For, example if most the people in the Colorado movie theatre had a small hand-gun, only maybe a one or two would have died.
Hook August 06, 2012 at 04:45 PM
The LEOs caught him less than a mile from his home. Good work boys. This one almost got away.
Peter Stewart August 09, 2012 at 01:02 PM
merryman 1888 wrote: "No, I absolutely disagree. That would only accelerate our, already in-crouching, overbearing police country into a complete 'police state'. Because, it is inevitable that more police or government involvement will result in corruption. What we need is less police and government involvement, and more civilian involvement. For, example if most the people in the Colorado movie theatre had a small hand-gun, only maybe a one or two would have died." Have you lost what little mind you may have. Picture this....a dark movie house with 100-200 people in it some idiot comes in fires a shot. Those 20-30 people packing, whip out there guns and start blasting indiscriminately at any profile they see. Since most of those people have never had any formal training their aim shall we say is not exactly accurate. The body count would have been three times what it was. Get your head out of your rear and think about what you are proposing. Just because you may be allowed to have a gun does not mean you should have one. If the guy came in with only a knife thankfully little carnage would have happened.
CJ August 19, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Got news for you...the booze probably did not have as much to do with it as you think...a bully is a bully...and they don't need alcohol to be one..they simply already are one. Some to the degree, their future is prison. Too bad for Jay, too bad for John Lees. I hope Jay does not have any lingering trouble for this injury. At his age, it may take a while to know. I also hope this man changes his ways and becomes more peaceful from here forward. Hopefully, he is full of regret and will change. The same can be said of Jay.
CJ August 19, 2012 at 03:22 PM
That is such a good point.
CJ August 19, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Oh come on, merryman...you are so full of it. What, are you lost here in Gulfport and can't find the parks downtown St Pete to sleep in? Or..are you one of the bored protestors here in town for the RNC...who don't have a cause or care in the world except ones they are paid pennies to support. Let me see...how do I choose...Anarchy or Police State...hmmm...
CJ August 19, 2012 at 03:39 PM
I got your back on this one, Nancy. I might not have agreed with you on Jay (no hard feelings?), but you are right on here. With as many Gulfport cops that are always on duty around the clock, it really is hard why they don't give the beach area ''virtually'' full time 24/7/365 watch. Gulfport is not very big. It's true they have their hands full watching the fringe border area (22nd Ave S and 49th St S) for the overflow of St Pete crime into Gulfport...''but''...the beach is ''never'' far away from them and they obviously could make drives ''reguarly''...as in every 15-30 minutes of so into the Gulfport Beach area. It's a shame this fringe area can't be double teamed and share jurisdictions for this fring area by both Gulfport and St Pete police.

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