Popular bar dance parties shutdown by violence

NOW: Popular bar dance parties shutdown by violence

MISHAWAKA, Ind.-- On Sunday morning, 24-year-old Dominique Herron was shot and killed near Logan Street and Mishawaka Avenue after a night of drinking at Smith’s Downtown.

Later the same day, the bar’s owner, Ryan Smith, announced one of their most popular weekly events, their Saturday night dance party, is cancelled this weekend.

“The times we’re living in right now is a whole new thing that we’re having to deal with and I just think it’s just in everyone’s best interest that we look for an alternative thing to do on Saturday nights besides the dance party,” Smith said.

Ryan Smith tells ABC57 this isn’t the first time gunfire has broken out near his business, and said there’s been months of reoccurring acts of violence in the area.

“We haven’t had problems in here, it’s like this is something that’s like going on in the city’s parking lot,” Smith said. “There’s still people that are carrying guns although it might not be in here but that type of crowd is moving our way so to speak.”

Mayor Dave Wood’s office is accusing the bar itself of being the problem, not the city owned parking lot nearby, who said “Smith’s bar is a public nuisance that is diverting and draining the city’s police resources. Police department records of incidents outside and inside smith’s show incidents of battery, disorderly conduct, criminal recklessness and discharge of firearms.”

The city is also pushing state liquor license regulators to shut Smith’s down, citing 302 police calls there over the past 11 years.

Smith said he no longer feels anyone is safe and hopes to see more police officers focused on a city-owned parking lot where he claims most of the trouble starts.

“Every time you have a spot where there’s issues like maybe some increased patrolling, they have the manpower to do it and like i said we’re right across the street and it’s not like you know they’re not coming and going from there as it is anyway,” Smith said.“At this point in time we don’t feel that it’s safe enough to continue with different things going on.”

The city responded in that statement saying “The top priority of Mayor Wood is the safety of citizens of Mishawaka. Besides making sure we have the best police and fire protection possible, mayor wood takes other measures within his power to make our city safer.”

ABC57 also reached out to the Mishawaka Police Department for their take on the issues at Smith’s Downtown, but they have not responded.

The City of Mishawaka’s Corporation Counsel, Patrick Hinkle, released the following statement on behalf of the city regarding Smith’s Downtown:

“The top priority of Mayor Wood is the safety of the citizens of Mishawaka. Besides making sure we have the best police and fire protection possible, Mayor Wood takes other measures within his power to make our City safer. One of those measures is to oppose the application by Smith’s Downtown Tap for renewal of its liquor license with the Alcohol Tobacco Commission (“ATC”)

Mayor Wood opposed Smith’s application for renewal in 2016, and the Local Board of the ATC denied Smith’s application. Unfortunately, Smith’s appealed and the ATC in Indianapolis reversed the Local Board. At that time the Hearing Judge in Indianapolis warned Smith’s it could be held responsible for activities in the parking lot. The Hearing Judge also recommended that Smith’s attempt to communicate with the City to “foster a working relationship.”

Smith’s failed to comply with the ATC’s order, so when its application for renewal was up again in 2020, Mayor Wood opposed it. The Local Board held a hearing on August 26, 2020, but continued the matter because Smith’s had been issued a violation shortly before the hearing and the rules required that it be given additional time to respond. In the meantime, the ATC is going to implement its PACE Program with Smith’s. The PACE program is designed to address problems presented by permittees that "attract clientele who engage in disruptive, violent and/or criminal behavior, regularly allow or promote over consumption of alcohol, are disrespectful to the peace and quietude of the surrounding community, and as a result, have become public nuisances."

Smith’s bar is a public nuisance that is diverting and draining the City’s police resources. Police Department records of incidents outside and inside Smith’s show incidents of battery, disorderly conduct, criminal recklessness and discharge of firearms. The conduct has occurred with more frequency than other bars adjacent to Smith’s. For instance, Mishawaka Police Department records for 2008 - 2019, show police calls totaling about 302 for Smith’s, while the addresses of bars adjacent to Smith’s show that for the same period of time they had significantly less, ranging from 22 calls to 105 calls.

According to police records this year, 2020, has been particularly violent at Smith’s. On January 5, 2020 a fight broke out in the bar and a man wearing a Harley Davidson jacket, struck a woman in the face breaking her jaw. Patrons complained that Smith’s waited too long to call the police and sided with the attackers in order to protect its customers. The police were unable to obtain surveillance video from Smith’s as it had allegedly been overwritten. A woman claimed that on January 31, 2020, she was drugged in Smith’s, and taken to her apartment and raped. She tested positive for a date rape drug. On February 21, 2020, a male victim was attacked and beaten in Smith’s by the boyfriend of a woman the victim had allegedly drugged and raped the prior weekend. The victim claims the employees at Smith’s knew about the alleged rape and did not do anything to stop the beating. The security video was over written and Ryan Smith failed to contact the police with the identities of the security working the night of the attack. On March 15, 2020, a big fight between 15 people occurred in the bar requiring six officers to respond. On May 23, 2020, two customers in the bar were assaulted by jacketed full patch Hell’s Angels. One assault took place in front of security cameras and the other victim was was attacked in the men’s restroom with a pipe and brass knuckles. Again that video was also not available to the police. On July 25, 2020, there were shootings in the parking lot behind Smith’s. A female victim was grazed in the foot and a male victim was hit by debris from a ricochet. Numerous casings were found in the parking lot behind the bar. A fight had broken out in the alley behind Smith’s involving at least 20 persons and it led to shots being fired. A witness said the group of fighters were in Smith’s beforehand. Video from nearby Doc Pierce’s Restaurant, showed the people walking from Smith’s. One of the shooters was a man wearing a Hoodrats Riders Motorcycle Club jacket.

2019 was no better. For instance on February 17, 2019, the victim was a man who was in Smith’s to pick up his girlfriend, an employee of Smith’s. They got into an argument and the manager of the bar told them both to leave. He stood up and called the manager a bitch and she hit him in the eye. He ran down the stairs and left the bar where he was struck in the face by another person, known by the manager of the bar. On April 5, 2019, an off duty Plymouth Police officer was approached in the bathroom at Smith’s by a male asking him if he wanted drugs. When the seller tried to show the officer a baggie, a firearm fell from the seller’s waistband. He then ran out of Smith’s. The drug in the baggie was ecstasy. Also, on April 5, 2019, a male patron of Smith’s who was a member of the Native Brotherhood, was inside Smith’s when some of the members of the Native Brotherhood were kicked out. When he left the bar later on, he found his car had been vandalized in the parking lot behind Smith’s. On June 8, 2019, an officer driving by saw a male beat up a female. The couple was in Smith’s and the male went to the car to sleep. The female came out later and they got into a fight because he could not immediately find the keys. The female was too drunk to drive and called for a ride. The male was arrested. (3 officers called to the scene) On June 9, 2019, there was a report of several intoxicated people including females pushing each other around trying to start a fight. On August 2, 2019, a patron was refused service because he was too intoxicated. He left the bar and attempted to drive away. Other patrons from Smith’s flagged down the police and the drunk was stopped. On November 2, 2019, the victim said he was listening to the band in the mosh pit in the front center stage when he was struck by a person believed to be known as Porkchop. The victim asked Ryan Smith for video of the area. Mr. Smith told him it was stored for 10 days. When the MPD contacted Ryan Smith for the video he advised the video system was not working and there was no recording of the incident. The incident was not reported to the MPD until December 3, 2019.

On January 18, 2018, the front window of Smith’s was broken out by a an intoxicated patron who claimed he was thrown out of Smith’s. He was .21% BAC. Mr. Smith claimed the person had been intoxicated all night and was causing minor disturbances. Then he tried to fight with the DJ over a song that he wanted to be played. Mr. Smith was talking to the person outside the door when he punched the front window and ran. On September 23, 2018, there was a fight involving 10-15 people. Some of the victims were women. The fights started upstairs in Smith’s. One woman was struck by another woman because she was talking to her man. The victim and her friends decided to leave the bar and they were attacked by the same group outside the bar.

On January 29, 2017, a male got into fight in parking lot behind Smith’s. He was drunk, got out of his vehicle to fight but left his vehicle in drive and it crashed into a brick pillar. June 18, 2017, an intoxicated woman was slapping, pushing and yelling at her boyfriend on the sidewalk in front of the bar. On September 24, 2017, a male pushed a female down the stairs and was screaming at the top of the stairs. The bouncers had tried to remove him because he was trying to grab a female’s purse but he fought with them. He continued to yell, scream and cause a scene as the police arrested him and put him in the squad car.

The above examples are just a sample of the kind of problems that occur inside and outside of Smith’s that generate police calls. Not all police calls result in an arrest or even a report. Sometimes the participants are gone by the time the police arrive. However, the police still have to spend time and divert resources to respond. Even when the police respond, Ryan Smith has not been very cooperative. He has failed to return phone calls and has failed to provide surveillance video, blaming it on the system.”

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