By BRIAN MESSENGER
---- — METHUEN — Police arrested five suspects in connection with the bloody beating of three men outside McDonald's restaurant on Route 110 early this morning.
One suspect believed by police to be the "initial aggressor" in the incident will be arraigned this morning in Lawrence District Court on charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault with intent to murder.
Police Chief Joseph Solomon said the four other suspects face charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
Two of the suspects are juveniles. Solomon said the names of the victims and suspects were not immediately available.
All three victims were men in their 20s. Police were initially told at the scene that the victims were teens. All were transported to Lawrence General Hospital earlier this morning in serious condition.
The incident occurred at 12:37 a.m. The McDonald's is located in Merrimack Plaza on Haverhill Street. Solomon said the violence was triggered after a verbal altercation inside the restaurant.
"One of the suspects made a comment to a female who was with one of the victims," said Solomon. "That then sparked back-and-forth words that then resulted in one of the suspects attacking the victims."
Solomon said the victims were struck and stabbed with a 2 1/2-foot-long metal pipe with square edges. Solomon said the pipe was likely taken from within a "self-containing" ashtray located outside the restaurant.
One victim was struck in the head, one was jabbed with the pipe in the chest and the third victim suffered a serious cut on the arm. Solomon said two of the victims ran inside the restaurant after the incident while the third lay unconscious outside.
"There was a significant amount of blood inside," said Solomon.
Before their arrest, Solomon said, four of the alleged attackers were initially "detained for witness identification" at a Haffner's gas station up the street. The fifth suspect believed to be the "initial aggressor" was arrested early today in Lawrence, Solomon said.