Brandon Spiller says he's a victim.
The 29-year-old Wisconsin resident was among those who met to dine at Ashford House in Tinley Park Saturday, only to be . His clan of about 15 to 20 included people from all over the country who were interested in joining the European Heritage Group, which he said was holding its first meeting around 12:30 p.m. in a back area of the .
"We were just meeting for networking and helping people out and finding resources available in our area for those of European descent," he said. "It was just a meeting to get to know each other."
But the group didn't even have a chance to get down to business that afternoon, he said. Shortly after ordering appetizers, a brigade of about 15 masked people clad in black and armed with nunchucks, metal batons, hammers and table legs marched into the restaurant in a "single-file" line, he said. They pitched a chair at Spiller's table and kicked off what call a "mob-style beating".
"It's almost as if it was a terrorist attack," said Spiller, who was hospitalized after the melee with wounds to his eye and head. He received eight staples to mend a gash on his head. "They terrorized us."
He said group members "still have no idea why" their assailants would want to target them.
The group's premise, Spiller told Patch, is to "help other European people and group members" in a variety of ways, such as giving family assistance or networking to find jobs. Spiller, who is unemployed, added that in today's economy, people need all the help they can get.
An "anti-fascist" forum , saying members of a group known as Anti-Racist Action descended on the restaurant “where the 5th annual White Nationalist Economic Summit and Illinois White Nationalist Meet-and-Greet" was reportedly taking place.
But Spiller insists that just wasn't the case.
"We have no idea why they came after us," he said. "And they attacked everybody. Not just those in our group. They attacked patrons in the restaurant as well."
Spiller described the weaponry in detail, though steel batons and hammers are the only weapons listed in court records that detail the arrest of five accused assailants.
Ashford House owner Mike Winston confirmed Tuesday that the attackers brought more than just hammers and batons to his restaurant.
"They had all kinds of things with them," he said, noting that some in the attacking group did rumble with patrons in the main dining area.
Defendants claim victims are associated with white supremacy forums WhiteNewsNow and StormFront, Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Deno said on Monday. Spiller denies that, saying, "we're not racist."
He believes attackers were clued into the heritage group's meeting by a "mole," he said.
"They think that a member who kept saying he was going to show up … calling and saying 'I'll be there, I'll be there,' and then he never showed up, may have told the (Anti-Racist Action) about it," he said.
Asked why Tinley Park was chosen as a meeting area, Spiller demurred, saying he wasn't the coordinator. He said the woman who organized the meeting—she wasn't available for comment Tuesday—changed the location a couple of times.
"It was going to be at a private venue and at the last minute, she changed it," he said. "She picked a place that she thought we would be safe."
By that, he said, he meant that organizers didn't want people coming from out of state to be in a "bad part of town."
"If it's the ghetto, I wouldn't want to meet in that area," Spiller said. "There are always bad parts of town. I think she did some research and picked a location that just looked safe."
He said safety didn't even cross his mind until the aggressors entered. His vaguest memory is of lunging for a chair to defend himself, he said.
"My guess is that maybe because we were all white, they considered us white supremacists," Spiller said. "We didn't have anything associated with white supremacy on us. All our vehicles were searched (by police) before we left."
Spiller admits that he did have a firearm in his car. But it was legally registered to him, in a case and was kept separate from its ammunition as Illinois law requires during transport. There's nothing wrong with having a gun if you are a legal gun owner, Spiller insists.
At least one other person in Spiller's dining party also had a gun—his, however, wasn't legal, officials said. . Court documents indicate that Gilroy is a "transient."
He admitted to police that he had a loaded semiautomatic handgun in his car, according to court documents. He was convicted in 2002 of manufacturing marijuana in Lowndes County, Ga., prosecutors said, and is not permitted to have a weapon.
Steven E. Speers, 33, of Grand Forks, N.D., was also dining at Ashford House at the European heritage table. He was arrested that day on a warrant out of Dallas County, Texas, for possession of child pornography.
"We had no idea about the one who had the child pornography warrant," Spiller said. "If we did, he wouldn't have been allowed to meet with us. The other one, he didn't know the (gun) law."
Spiller said the melee came to an abrupt halt when a patron at the restaurant socked an assailant and "knocked him out." Winston partially backed that statement on Tuesday. He clarified to say he wasn't sure the attacker was completely unconscious but he was "having a hard time" and those in his group carried him out in retreat.
Spiller said that as his wounds heal, he will remain confused about the incident.
"We're not white supremacists … we're not skinheads," he said. "We're just setting up a European Heritage Group."
Spiller's eye is getting better, slowly but surely, he said. His staples are set to be removed next week.