Man hospitalized after 2 a.m. fight over cellphone outside College Delly

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The College Delly (Courtesy Google Maps)
The College Delly (Courtesy Google Maps)

One man was hospitalized and two other men are facing charges after a fight over a stolen cellphone that took place near the College Delly, according to police.

Two Newport News men, 20-year-old Joel Espinal and 19-year-old Nicholas Armando Hernandez, are accused of attacking a man while he was talking on his cellphone outside the College Delly, taking the phone and fleeing, Williamsburg Police spokesman Maj. Greg Riley said.

The men are each charged with robbery, maiming, assault, assault by mob, conspiracy to commit a felony, underage possession of alcohol and public intoxication, Riley said.

The victim sustained bruising and a black eye, and was transported by medics in an ambulance to Riverside Doctor’s Hospital in Williamsburg, police said. His injuries are not considered life-threatening.

On Jan. 22, a Williamsburg Police officer on patrol observed a “large group” of people fighting on a sidewalk around 2:20 a.m. near the College Delly, located at 336 Richmond Road, Riley said.

Officers who responded to the scene separated the three men involved in the fight, identifying Espinal, Hernandez and the victim, police said.

The victim told police he was fighting with the two men because he believed they had stolen his cellphone during an earlier altercation around 2 a.m. He said the two men attacked him while he was talking on the phone, then ran east on Richmond Road. Afterwards, he was unable to find his phone, and spent 20 minutes searching for it, Riley said.

The victim confronted the two men about the missing phone when he saw them again in the same area.

Another fight ensued, which is when police arrived on scene, Riley said. The victim did not want to press charges for the fight, but police charged the two men with public intoxication and underage possession of alcohol.

The victim went into the Williamsburg Police Department the following afternoon to let them know he changed his mind about pressing charges. Police obtained warrants for Hernandez and Espinal on Jan. 29, charging them each with robbery, maiming, assault, assault by mob and conspiracy to commit a felony. Neither man had been served as of 11:30 a.m. Monday.

According to George Tsipas, owner of College Delly, the people involved in the altercation were not College Delly customers. He said over the past few years, he has seen more incidents of crime in the area around his business.

“We’ve never had issues like this before the past few years,” Tsipas said. “We’ve gotta do something about this.”

He added that the clientele has changed from local regulars to people from elsewhere. He claimed locals behave better, because they can’t afford to be kicked out of the limited number of establishments in town.

“It’s not against the law for other people from other towns to come to these places,” Tsipas said of the three businesses he owns in the area. “But all of our late night business has always been students and now we are dealing with people from Newport News and Virginia Beach.”

“It’s an issue,” he added. “We’re not a local crowd anymore. We’re not a local college deli like we used to be…It’s now starting to affect my business. It’s my property, my parking lot.”

This story has been updated to include comment from George Tsipas.