Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Shot in leg at Little Rock club, man sues

A Little Rock man who was shot in the leg in late August inside Club Envy at 7200 Colonel Glenn Road sued the business Tuesday, alleging that despite numerous reports of violent crimes on the premises, its owner failed to take proper measures to ensure the safety of clubgoers.

In the 3½ years before the shooting that injured Derek Terry, 27, Little Rock police responded to 220 incidents at the club, the lawsuit states. It alleges that "many of these incidents involved serious violent crimes, including multiple shooting incidents, as well as incidents of gun violence, rape, and assaults and batteries."

It says 79 of the reports were made in the previous two years.

Despite the owner's and directors' awareness of the "highly dangerous" aspects of the club, 26-year-old David Whitlock was able to walk in on the night of Aug. 27 with a Ruger .38 Special handgun in his jeans pocket without the gun being detected, the lawsuit states.

"Club security failed to pat him down," it alleges. "Had they done so, they would have easily discovered the gun. Club security also failed to screen for weapons by properly using a metal detection wand."

Whitlock and Terry didn't know each other, but Terry was shot in the right leg, above the knee, after Whitlock pulled the gun -- which turned out to be stolen -- from his pocket and fired at someone else, according to the lawsuit. Whitlock was arrested that night on first-degree battery and other charges. He pleaded guilty April 4 and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Terry's attorneys, Joshua D. Gillispie of North Little Rock and Cara Boyd Connors of Little Rock, are seeking monetary damages to compensate Terry for pain and suffering, emotional distress, scars and disfigurement from the gunshot wound above his right knee, medical bills and loss of wages.

In the lawsuit filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, they allege that owner J.D. Lipscomb and fellow members of the club's board of directors, Mack Chukes and Jake Udall, were negligent.

But Lipscomb said Tuesday that he takes security at the club very seriously. He said he had implemented several security measures before the shooting that he thought were working well, and then after the shooting he combed through images from numerous cameras in the club to try to discern how Whitlock had managed to evade security procedures.

He said he met with the police chief and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, and shared video from the night of the shooting with them.

"We looked at all our recordings. ... We never found anybody that wasn't searched," he said. "We had 36 cameras, but could not find how this guy got in. The only thing we could think was that he was only half-searched," meaning that a metal-detecting wand wasn't held close enough to Whitlock's pocket.

So, within four days of the shooting, Lipscomb said, he installed a metal detector and announced it on Facebook.

Lipscomb sent a reporter a copy of an Aug. 31 post on the club's Facebook page. It includes two photographs of him standing beside a metal detector at the club's entrance and the words, "Envy has a METAL DETECTOR in place. As the Godfather says, it is as safe as the Little Rock Airport #WECARE."

Lipscomb said he later installed a second metal detector as well. He said he'd had off-duty police officers working at the club before the shooting, but afterward he increased the number of officers and their hours.

After the Facebook post, he said, "Our business picked up, because of the metal detector. ... That was one of the best moves we ever made."

He said 1,200 to 1,300 people visit the club on Friday nights, its busiest time, but he also has up to six police officers on duty at a time. And since the metal detectors were installed, he said, "we haven't run into any guns -- only a few knives."

The Little Rock Police Department didn't have statistics readily available Tuesday afternoon about the number of calls to the club since the shooting, and it declined to speculate on whether safety has improved.

The lawsuit alleges that L&J Catering, which owns the property and leases it to the nightclub, "assumed a duty of ordinary care to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe manner, which included guarding against foreseeable harms caused by known defects and hazards." Lipscomb is the owner and president of L&J Catering.

Just last month, on June 3, police responded to a report of gunshots in the club's parking lot and found Devin Hansberry, 32, of Little Rock lying on the ground suffering from a gunshot wound that wasn't life-threatening. He told officers he heard the shots while standing next to his car, which police noted was riddled with bullet holes on its passenger side and front windshield.

Seven days earlier, on May 27, a 27-year-old woman reported that she was shot while sitting in a vehicle in the club's parking lot, though a manager for the club told a reporter that no shootings took place that night, and that several officers were working there at the time.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Man sues the Hawk, employee over head injury received in bar fight

A man who got hit over the head with a bottle at a Lawrence college bar known as the Hawk is suing the business and one of its employees over the incident.

Zachary Webb alleges in his lawsuit that an employee who was underage and drinking on the job hit him with the bottle and that other bar staff kicked him out, severely concussed, “disoriented and bleeding profusely.”

Webb is suing for unspecified damages, saying The Jayhawk Cafe, 1340 Ohio St., was negligent for failing to keep him safe and adequately train and supervise its employees. He’s also suing the employee for allegedly assaulting and battering him.

The altercation happened Jan. 17, 2017.

The Lawrence Police Department responded, though neither man was charged with a crime, or at least not one that rose to the level of being filed in Douglas County District Court, according to a search of court records.

Webb filed his civil suit in October 2017 in Douglas County District Court. The defendants have since filed responses, and there’s a case management conference scheduled for later this month.

The night he was hurt, Webb said, he was walking through the Hawk sometime after 10 p.m. — when the bar is supposed to be closed to everyone under 21 — when then-19-year-old employee Andrew Skaff approached him, burned him with a cigarette and exchanged words. Webb said he walked away but Skaff followed and began pushing him and asking him to fight.

When he declined, Skaff “suddenly and without warning” hit him on the head with a bottle, the lawsuit says.

Webb said he tried to get help from other Hawk staff but was escorted out and “shoved” away. He said Hawk staff failed to get him medical help or call police.

“Plaintiff was forced into the street where he wandered to the closest residence to obtain help,” the suit says. “Several hours passed before Plaintiff was taken to the hospital where he was treated for significant head injuries.”

Webb said in the suit that he suffered a crushed skull and severe concussion, leading to permanent scarring, hospital and other health-related expenses, loss of earnings, loss of tuition, “loss of enjoyment of life,” pain and suffering.

Skaff and the Hawk denied those allegations, saying in responses to the suit that although Skaff was an employee, he was not on duty at that time.

Also, Skaff said he acted in self-defense after Webb and several friends surrounded him, were “verbally aggressive” and threatened to hurt him, according to his response. Webb swung at Skaff but missed, and that’s when Skaff hit Webb.

“His reaction was reasonable,” Skaff’s attorney, Overland Park-based Jennifer Johnson, said in the response.

The Hawk specifically denied that its employees “forced” Webb into the street and added that police did respond.

“The incident was reported and investigated by local law enforcement who, upon information and belief, determined that no charges should be brought against Defendant Skaff or anyone else,” attorney Charles Schimmel wrote in the business’s response. Schimmel said any alleged damages sustained by Webb were beyond the bar’s control.

Webb’s attorney Maureen Brady, based in Kansas City, Mo., said she and her firm declined additional comment on the situation.

“We don’t discuss the specifics of a case while it is in pending litigation,” she said.

Schimmel and Johnson did not respond to messages from the Journal-World Friday afternoon.

Neither Webb nor Skaff is listed as a University of Kansas student now, according to the KU directory.

Schimmel had subpoenaed police reports, surveillance video and notes from the incident. However, the city has objected to turning those over because they’re confidential “criminal investigation records” and their release could also violate the privacy of individuals therein, the city said in its response to the subpoena.