WSAZ Investigates l Huntington bar owner speaks about deadly shooting, string of violence
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A restaurant employee died after being hit by a bullet because of an argument that started inside a nearby bar in the 1500 block of 4th Avenue in Huntington.
The victim, Joseph Bryan, died Sunday after police say Bryan was hit by gunfire aimed at Premiere Pub and Grill, which has been the scene of three shootings this year.
Ronnie Davis, owner of Premiere Pub and Grill, was at the bar when the shooting happened. He describes what he saw.
It was the end of the night. Lights had just come on. We were actually running people out of the building and over my shoulder I saw an altercation. One of the shooters hit one of his friends, knocked him to the ground. We immediately threw all three guys out of the club once we saw this. The problem escalated from there out on the sidewalk. We just tried to de-escalate, get everybody home, and they just weren’t having it, you know. They continued to cause a scene for the next five minutes out here and then they made a threat on the business and I got all of my customers and all the staff back in the building safely. I go back to the door real quick to lock the door and that is when the guy opened fire on the business. Unfortunately, struck an innocent restaurant worker next door in the process.
That restaurant worker, Joseph Bryan, was taken to the hospital but died Sunday. He was just 28 years old and he had only been working at D.P. Dough for a few days before he was shot.
The suspect police have identified as Kristopher Brown was arrested Friday. He faces multiple charges and the getaway driver, Gavin Bailey, was also arrested.
The shooting was not the first to happen outside Premier Pub and Grill this year.
“Three this year, that’s a lot?” said WSAZ reporter Kim Rafferty.
“It is,” Davis said.
“What do you think or have to say about that?” Rafferty asked.
“You know, obviously we are slightly responsible for everything that happens, even if it is outside the premises,” Davis said.
On March 20, the first shooting happened and police said two people were shot after an argument inside the bar.
Less than a week later, two more people were shot while they were standing in line waiting to get inside the bar.
After the second shooting, the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration (ABCA) temporarily suspended the bar’s liquor license.
The ABCA cleared the bar to reopen in April but Davis said he waited until September to return to business.
WSAZ reached out the Davis after the second shooting in March but he did not respond to our request.
Following the most recent shooting Friday, Davis spoke with WSAZ.
WSAZ asked Davis about a set of rules that were posted on the bar’s door back in March, because those rules had since been taken down.
“We know that you all put up a sign, even saying back then no this, that color whatever. Why was it up then and why is it down now?” Rafferty asked.
“That is pretty common in the city of Huntington for bars to do that. We had certain people that would come in all dressed alike and we know what that is.”
“Why was it taken down?” Rafferty asked.
“We are trying to give the people the freedom. You know, I think this is a much bigger problem than what our customers are wearing or what music we are playing or the atmosphere of the club, you know, I mean,” Davis said.
The ABCA has once again suspended the bars liquor license for a ‘cooling off period’ of ten days.
“We want to keep everyone safe. That is obviously goal number one, but we have a vision for this business and we are not giving up on that because the streets aren’t being controlled properly,” Davis said. “Give it a couple weeks, let the families mourn what happened, you know. We do have a vision and we want the Marshall students to have a place to come out and have a good time, but they shouldn’t have to worry about this.”
Marshall University tells WSAZ the suspected shooter, Kristopher Brown, and accused getaway driver, Gavin Bailey are not Marshall students.
WSAZ spoke with Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, about the bar and the violence.
Davis said closing the bar will not solve the problem.
“I just want people to realize this is a much bigger issue than this club. You shut this one down. Another one is going to pop up three blocks down the road and the same thing is going to happen,” Davis said. “This is a city problem, a national problem. We have got to figure out a way to put a stop to this gun violence.”
After the ABCA suspended the bar’s liquor license in March, the owner had to submit an improvement and safety plan before the suspension would be lifted.
Since the shooting Friday, WSAZ has asked the ABCA for a copy of the plan but we have not received it.
In the latest suspension order, the ABCA is again requiring another safety plan be submitted. WSAZ will ask for a copy of that plan.
Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest.
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