(CNN) — A man says part of one finger was bitten off in a confrontation that developed at a health-care rally Wednesday night in southern California.
William Rice, 65, told CNN in a telephone interview he was in Thousand Oaks, California, standing on a sidewalk across the street from a rally sponsored by the group MoveOn.Org, which supports health-care reform. Rice said an unidentified man came “running at me” yelling, “You’re an idiot. You’re an idiot.”
A spokesman for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office told CNN Rice was a counter-demonstrator and that he and another man got into a fistfight.
Rice would not divulge to CNN his views on the proposed health-care reforms.
Rice, who would not say why he was at the location, said he did not do anything to prompt the incident and did not know the other man.
Rice said he hit the other man on the nose when he came at him. “Had I not hit him he would have hit me,” Rice said, adding that his left hand ended up in the other man’s mouth during the incident, and the top part of his left pinky finger was bitten off.
Authorities were looking for the other man Thursday. They said they had heard various accounts of what happened and wanted to get his side of events.
A spokeswoman for Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks said Rice arrived at the hospital with the severed part of his finger wrapped in ice. Spokeswoman Kris Carraway-Bowman said hospital personnel told Rice they could re-attach the severed part and what that process would involve, and that he elected not to have it re-attached.
She said Rice departed the hospital leaving behind the severed portion of the finger, and the hospital disposed of it.
A statement from the MoveOn.Org organization Thursday said, “While we don’t know if either party involved was a MoveOn member, we regret any violence that may have occurred yesterday, and we support the Ventura County Sheriff’s investigation into the situation. It is our firm hope that this event does not detract from the tens of thousands who were out peacefully making their voices heard for health care reform and a public option.”