Florida couple accused of beating veteran says he provoked them

A couple accused of beating up a 66 year-old veteran outside a Florida American Legion post on Memorial Day weekend is speaking out for the first time.

“The people that are attacking don’t even know what happened,” said William Lodge, who goes by the nickname Tommy. “I really can’t understand the thought process of where it comes from. The only thing I can think of is ignorance.”

He and his wife, Terry Lodge, were arrested Sunday, accused of punching and kicking 66-year-old veteran Charles Hughes in the head outside American Legion Post 283.

About 100 protesters waving American flags and holding signs showed up Thursday in front of Wing Depot, the restaurant that the Lodges own in Arlington, encouraging people to boycott it.

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Protesters said Hughes is now out of the hospital, but his son said he still can’t make sense of it.

“(I'm) outraged. There was no reason for it. Everything I’ve read and everything he told me points to this is just an unthinking, unconscionable action,” said Charles Hughes Jr.

Inside the nearly empty restaurant, Tommy and Terry Lodge said there’s more to the story.

Tommy Lodge wants people to know that he’s a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam.

“I went into the military when I was 17 years old, into the Navy,” he said.

The Lodges’ attorney, Miguel Rosada, said the argument began inside American Legion Post 283 when Hughes threw a coaster that hit Terry Lodge.

Rosada said it wasn’t a beating, but instead a fight between veterans, and Hughes started it.

“They were not the initial aggressors, and Mr. Lodge was defending himself,” said Rosada.

WJAX learned that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has been called to Wing Depot 54 times in the last three years.

Twenty of those calls were for disturbances, a couple of them violent.

“We can’t speak to any patterns or disturbances,” said Rosada.

By comparison, JSO has been called 17 times to American Legion Post 283 in the same time frame. The only time someone was hurt there was on Sunday.

A JSO spokesman said the Lodges have never been suspects in any investigations before Sunday.

Their arraignment is scheduled for June 28.