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Fraternity Blamed for Fatal Street Fight

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - A man who killed someone in a street fight says drunken fraternity members started the fight, which he tried to avoid. He claims 10 to 20 members of Sigma Pi Fraternity house in Berkeley attacked him and a friend, despite their efforts to avoid a confrontation.

Adam Russell and Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield sued the Sigma Pi Fraternity and three named members in Alameda County Court.

"All of the attackers were intoxicated, aggressive and expressing threats of violence" during the May 3, 2008 fight, according to the complaint.

Russell and Hoeft-Edenfield say they repeatedly asked to be left alone and tried to walk away to avoid a confrontation.

"Neither Mr. Hoeft-Edenfield nor Mr. Russel [sic] acted as an aggressor," the complaint states. "They walked away. They verbally discouraged the attackers by telling them to back up and leave. When the attackers continued their aggressive behavior, Hoeft-Edenfield pulled out a knife that he carried for use at his place of employment. He brandished the knife and demanded that the attackers back off."

Hoeft-Edenfield says "one Christopher Wootton" grabbed him from behind and threw him to the ground.

"Hoeft-Edenfield defended himself with one single knife thrust. That thrust proved fatal to Mr. Wooton [sic]. The attacks on plaintiffs continued thereafter," the complaint states.

"Hoeft-Edenfield was later arrested, held in custody for almost two years, and prosecuted for murder," according to the complaint.

Both Russell and Hoeft-Edenfield claim they suffered serious physical injuries from the attack.

According to the complaint: "Over a period of years, and continuing through at least May 3, 2008, defendants promoted, supported, permitted, and/or took part in a culture, pattern, and practice of excessive alcohol consumption, binge drinking, alcohol consumption by minors, anti-social violent, and criminal behaviors and activities in and around the fraternity houses located in the 'South Campus' neighborhood adjacent to the campus of the University of California in Berkeley."

The plaintiffs seek damages for emotional distress, negligence, assault and battery and conspiracy to bring about false arrest and malicious prosecution.

They sued the Interfraternity Council, the Sigma Pi Fraternity, and Zach James, Stephen Silveira and Christopher Luu.

Russell and Hoeft-Edenfield are represented by Yolanda Huang of Berkeley.

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