Member of White House travel team accused of assault in bars

Air Force Sgt. Peter McNally (right), during a 2008 deployment at an undisclosed air base in Southwest Asia. — Photo courtesy of United States Air Force

Updated 3:55 pm September 30.

Edgartown police have summonsed Master Sergeant Peter A. McNally, an Air Force explosives disposal expert based in Florida, in connection with two separate assaults in Edgartown bars on the evening of August 28. Mr. McNally traveled to the Vineyard as part of the team that accompanied President Obama and his family on their August vacation.

Police have accused Mr. McNally, 41, of Lynn Haven, Florida of groping a woman who was having a drink with her boyfriend in the Wharf Pub on Main Street. Police will seek charges of indecent assault in that incident.

Police said Mr. McNally then went across the street to The Atlantic, an upscale restaurant and bar. There, police allege, without provocation, Mr. McNally struck manager Jamie Zambrama in the face. Police will seek charges of assault and battery in that case.

In the fight that ensued with Mr. Zambrama, Mr. McNally suffered serious injuries that included a lacerated liver and several severe lacerations to his head. Based on the seriousness of those injuries, police have also sought charges of assault and battery with serious bodily injury against Mr. Zambrama.

Two bar patrons who spoke to Mr. McNally earlier and saw the fight told The Times that the master sergeant said he was on Martha’s Vineyard to protect the president.

Both men have been summonsed to appear in Edgartown District Court on November 2, where a clerk-magistrate will decide whether the evidence warrants formal charges.

In a brief statement emailed to The Times, an Air Force spokesman declined to explain why Mr. McNally was on Martha’s Vineyard.

“Master Sergeant Peter A. McNally is assigned to the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida,” Air Force spokesman Todd Spitler said. “We take every complaint and allegation of our people seriously and investigate the facts thoroughly. As a matter of policy and in order to uphold investigative integrity, we are not at liberty to disclose details of ongoing investigations.”

In a brief telephone call Tuesday, Mr. McNally said he arrived on the Island about August 19. Asked whether he was here to help protect the president, who arrived with his family on August 18, Mr. McNally said, “I can’t confirm that, unfortunately. It’s still under investigation. I haven’t been notified of anything. I’ll probably have to get a lawyer because of what was done to me. I ended up going to ICU (the intensive care unit), and I don’t remember much about what happened. I’m back at work, healing day by day.”

Mr. McNally’s duties include finding and destroying unexploded bombs, mines, and other explosive weaponry, using a variety of techniques, including robotics, according a feature story published on an Air Force web site.

Brutal fight

According to police reports, Edgartown police were at The Atlantic on August 28, assisting an ambulance crew treating an injured employee, when another employee alerted the officers that there was a fight inside the restaurant.

Police found Mr. McNally on his hands and knees in a rear corner. “McNally was bleeding profusely from a severe laceration on the top of his head,” Officer Alex Elias wrote in his report. “McNally was confused and appeared to be unaware of his injuries.”

Mr. Zambrama told police that Mr. McNally approached him, apparently attempting to exit through the porch dining area. He directed Mr. McNally to the front door instead.

“At this time, McNally threw a punch with a closed fist, striking Zambrama in the face, knocking him through the door and onto the ground,” according to the report. “Zambrama stated McNally was standing above him as he stood up. Zambrama stated he kicked McNally three times in the groin area, then punched McNally with a closed fist in the face. McNally then fell to the ground.”

Two witnesses told police that Mr. McNally began the fight by punching Mr. Zambrama, without provocation.

Mr. McNally was taken by ambulance to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Mr. Zambrama said he was uninjured and declined medical attention.

Trouble brewing

Following the fight, police learned from another patron that, earlier in the evening, Mr. McNally’s had groped the patron’s girlfriend.

On August 29, Kathryn Murray of Chilmark, arrived at the Edgartown police station and told police she wanted to file charges. She told police Mr. McNally “was obnoxious inside the bar, yelling at patrons and trying to pick fights,” according to the report that was prepared from her statements. “At one point McNally put his hands around her and onto the sides of her breasts,” according to the report.

On Tuesday, August 30, Mr. McNally went to the Edgartown police station voluntarily for questioning. According to the report, he told police he could not remember and could not explain what happened.

In a phone interview with The Times, Mr. Zambrama said he was defending himself during the fight with Mr. McNally.

“There were many witnesses,” Mr. Zambrama said. “One minute I was saying goodbye, the next minute I’m on the floor with a sucker punch. All of a sudden this monster punches me. Guess what, I’m reacting, I don’t care if he boxes for a living, I’m just reacting.”

This article was updated to reflect a correction. The date of the probable cause hearing is November 2, not October 2.