Kristen Suriff had kicked off her high heels from her party-weary feet early Sunday morning and was waiting in her car for a friend to emerge from a downtown Covington bar. Before driving away, she wanted to make sure that Veronica Najarro, who was parked across Gibson Street, made it to her car safely.
She nearly didn’t.
As Najarro walked up to Suriff’s car to say good night, an assailant suddenly grabbed the petite young woman by the hair and yanked, dragging her away from the car and, it appeared to Suriff, toward a dark alley.
Suriff didn’t hesitate, jumping out of the car and yelling at the man to leave her friend alone.
“She punched him in the face, and he let me go,” Najarro said.
For Suriff, it was pure adrenaline. “My first instinct was just to go after him. I knew I had to get him off my friend,” she said.
What she didn’t know was that the man had a knife.
Three other men who witnessed the attack jumped out of their car, yelling a warning to Suriff and confronting the assailant.
It was only then that Suriff realized she’d been cut on the neck and was bleeding.
Her rescuers were not there by accident. Cousins Danny and Robert Haar and their friend Jason Allison had seen Christopher Schilling behaving strangely at another bar in the area, the Green Room Music Club.
First, the 31-year-old Franklinton man tried to put his name higher on the list for a pool table, arguing with other patrons, Allison said. About an hour later, he began to yell, unprovoked, at a man and woman sitting at the bar and was ejected by the bouncer.
As they left, Allison noticed the same man walking behind a lone woman and decided to follow him to make sure nothing happened.
That’s when they saw the man grab Najarro by the hair and, according to Allison, smack her head into Suriff’s car.
As the men struggled with Schilling, he slipped and fell, and Danny Haar was able to kick the knife out of his hand. Then he ran to get police, who were nearby, while the others held him down.
Haar said anyone would have done the same thing. “When you see something wrong, you should react,” he said. “Some people say turn a blind eye, walk away, but you can’t do that.”
Covington police booked Schilling on one count of aggravated battery, five counts of aggravated assault, three counts of simple battery and one count each of disturbing the peace by being drunk and disturbing the peace by fighting.
Schilling was not cooperative with authorities, according to a police news release, and denied remembering the event.
Haar and Allison said Schilling blacked out at one point, and police told them that when he came to, he said he remembered only having had an argument with his girlfriend earlier in the evening.
For Suriff, who had been at the Rock and Blues Cafe celebrating a reunion with the Mandeville High School Class of 2009, the incident proves the importance of always practicing the buddy system. “Never walk alone at night, girls or guys,” she said.
Both women said the incident — something they wouldn’t have expected in downtown Covington — shows that anyone can be a victim at anytime.
Najarro called it a random occurrence.
“I’m going to take it easy for a while,” Suriff said. “But I can’t say I won’t go back.”
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.