Tempers flare outside Delaware debate

DOVER — Political differences between La Mar Gunn, a candidate for lieutenant governor, and Dover City Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. boiled over into an alleged shoving incident outside a debate at the Modern Maturity Center on Wednesday night.

According to a Dover Police report, Mr. Sudler called 911 at 7:59 p.m. and reported Mr. Gunn allegedly had pushed him during an argument that took place outside the League of Women Voters and American Association of Women’s “candidates’ night” debate.

At least four officers responded to the Modern Maturity Center, located at 1121 Forrest Ave., which Dover police spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman said is not unusual involving a report of disorderly persons.

Mr. Gunn said he believes the whole incident is being blown out of proportion.

“Apparently my opponent [Bethany Hall-Long] has recruited Mr. Sudler and he was under the influence of alcohol, but it was nothing,” Mr. Gunn said. “I get approached by people who don’t share the same political views as me all the time, especially progressive Democrats.

“I didn’t shove [Mr. Sudler]. I just kind of put my hands out like, ‘Hey man, whoa.’ I think it was just the alcohol and the fact that he’s working for my opponent [that led to the incident]. I really don’t know what Roy was talking about. I just asked him to back up because I didn’t want him aggressively coming at me.”

Mr. Sudler said he was advised by his attorney Sean Lynn not to comment on the matter.

According to the police report, officers contacted Mr. Sudler upon arrival, who said he was approached by Mr. Gunn in a conference room and differing political views were exchanged.

La Mar T. Gunn

La Mar T. Gunn

Mr. Gunn told police that political differences sparked an argument, and he walked away from Mr. Sudler, who he claimed continued to be loud and disruptive, and appeared to be intoxicated.

According to the police report, Mr. Gunn and Mr. Sudler agreed to go outside to continue their discussion.

Mr. Gunn told police that Mr. Sudler approached him in what he perceived to be an aggressive manner, and felt he had to push him away to avoid physical contact.

The push did not knock Mr. Sudler to the ground, according to the police report, and no injuries occurred.

Roy Sudler Jr.

Roy Sudler Jr.

Investigating officers spoke with multiple witnesses to corroborate accounts of the confrontation, according to police.

The police report indicated officers detected a moderate smell of alcohol on Mr. Sudler’s breath, and he reported that he had consumed alcohol beforehand.

Police sent both men home, according to the report. Officers left the scene at around 8:30 to 8:40 p.m.

Pilar Figueroa, Mr. Sudler’s fiancée, said that she witnessed the entire incident and indicated it was originally set off by a misunderstanding and then racial comments allegedly made by Mr. Gunn.

Ms. Figueroa said that Mr. Gunn asked Mr. Sudler what his opinion was on the transgender bathroom issue being discussed at the debate.

She said that Mr. Sudler thought Mr. Gunn was asking about Bethany (Hall-Long) and Mr. Sudler misunderstood that he was actually asking about transgender people in bathrooms due to the volume of noise in the room.

“Roy answered ‘Yeah, I’m for Beth,’” Ms. Figueroa said. “He actually opened a can of worms by answering. Then La Mar said ‘Why are you voting for her? She’s white, I’m black.’ That might have been the most bizarre analogy I’ve ever heard.

“Roy said ‘I’m not voting based on colors, I’m voting for the most qualified person for the position and you’re not qualified to be second-in-command in the state.’”

Both Mr. Gunn and Mr. Sudler are African-American men.

Ms. Figueroa said the incident escalated from there.

“These are two African-American men who are getting heated and I didn’t want anything to happen,” she said. “Roy said ‘I’m sorry you are not worthy to be second-in-command.’ Now just confirm you’re racist against white people.

“Then [Mr. Gunn] starts screaming and attacking [Mr. Sudler], saying ‘You’re drunk. You’re intoxicated.’ He’s trying to paint a picture that isn’t true.”

Authorities returned to the Modern Maturity Center on Thursday to investigate further, viewing surveillance video that proved inconclusive. Police said Mr. Gunn and Mr. Sudler were seen on video at one point but not in camera range when the alleged push was made.

Police termed the report as unfounded at this point, and no charges have currently been filed.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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