New accusations emerge involving Rumrunner's

Man says he was cuffed, beaten; new reports of violence at bar emerge

Anchorage Daily NewsMay 5, 2012 

Three-time felon Murville Lampkin, 39, spent nearly half his adult life in prison. His rap sheet is a tale of crimes big and small, old and new, from auto theft and assault on a police officer to cocaine distribution and jailhouse drug trafficking.

At Rumrunner's Old Towne Bar & Grill, however, Lampkin was a member of the "security staff," and it was he who carried the handcuffs.

In an unusual criminal case lodged against the bar's owners and Lampkin, an Anchorage police spokesman says Lampkin and other members of Rumrunner's security force bound a violent 26-year-old customer, hauled him to a back room and beat him severely. The customer claims bouncers fractured his skull, hitting him until he agreed not to press charges. In March, a grand jury indicted the bouncer and business on assault charges and accused the corporation of destroying video evidence and falsifying records to hide the attack. Lampkin is out on bail, awaiting trial.

The bar strongly, categorically denies the charges.

"We've always tried to treat people fairly and make sure that they're protected. ... Make sure that nobody gets hurt," said A.J. Vangilder, head of security for Rumrunner's. Vangilder said he wasn't working at the bar at the time of the attack alleged in the criminal case, but that the notion a bouncer would restrain someone, take them to a room and attack them is "ridiculous."

Police, meanwhile, are looking into new claims that managers at the popular Fourth Avenue bar have for years ignored complaints of bone-breaking violence committed by their employees. More than 15 people have contacted police recently to share their own stories of being hurt at the bar or seeing others victimized, said Sgt. Mark Rein, who is supervising the investigation for APD.

"I was punched in the face by a bouncer at Rumrunner's, handcuffed, dragged around the outside of the building and brought into a small room and beaten while another bouncer held the door shut," Roman Gimeno, a computer programmer for the state, told the Daily News. He said his nose and a rib were broken in the assault.

The attack alleged by Gimeno occurred more than a year before the incident that prompted the current charges against Rumrunner's. The bouncer who hit him was not Lampkin, Gimeno said.

Among additional claims described by patrons in civil lawsuits and recent Daily News interviews:

• A former Fort Richardson soldier says a Rumrunner's bouncer snapped his ankle by tackling him in January 2010. The bar claimed to have security footage of the encounter but failed to produce the video when the case went to civil court, according to the man's attorney.

• An Anchorage waiter says he was choked unconscious by a member of the Rumrunner's security team and woke to find himself surrounded by bouncers, his left arm broken. He says bar management and employees refused to talk to him about the injury and more than $20,000 in medical bills.

• A former Rumrunner's bartender says a bouncer raped her at her home one night after work. Police investigated and no criminal charges were filed in the case, though an administrative law judge in February concluded the bar broke labor laws by failing to investigate the accusation and by forcing the woman to continue working alongside the bouncer. In a case now pending before the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights, the administrative law judge recommended Rumrunner's pay the woman $4,531 in lost wages.

Rumrunner's owner Basilio Gallo did not respond to a Daily News request to discuss the accusations against the business. Employees referred questions to the bar's attorneys.

OWNER DENIES LIABILITY

An attorney for AB&M Enterprises, the corporation that owns the bar, has said Rumrunner's committed no crime and that prosecutors are trying to force a settlement by igniting bad publicity about the business.

"These charges, personal in nature, represent the state's attempt to enlarge corporate liability in a bizarre and unprecedented manner," Tom Amodio, an attorney for the bar, said in a written statement April 18.

Police were called to Rumrunner's more than 600 times in 2010 and 2011, according to APD. That was more than the nearby Avenue, Anchorage Pub and Panhandle bars combined, and about 9 percent more than busy Chilkoot Charlie's in Spenard.

The high volume of calls may reflect well on the bar, said Brent Cole, an Anchorage lawyer defending Lampkin in the recent assault case. Police calls are a sign that the business wants to avoid taking the law into its own hands, he said.

NO BACKGROUND CHECKS

This is what Kevin Marrese, a waiter at the Hott Stixx restaurant, says he remembers about the night his arm was broken:

A 25-year-old aspiring rapper, Marrese agreed to celebrate a performance one night in mid-November with a late-night stop at Rumrunner's. His buddies wanted to go, he said; he did not. "(It's) usually a place I avoid, because of its reputation," but this time he decided to go along.

One of his friends got in argument in the bar and tempers flashed. Someone was shoved. Just as Marrese turned toward the commotion, a bouncer grabbed him in a chokehold from behind, he said.

Marrese woke up minutes later in a side room, surrounded by about four of his friends and twice as many bouncers. Something was very wrong with his left arm, he said. Bones projected at sickening angles beneath his skin.

"I tried to pick myself up. And I couldn't do it. I instantly knew my arm was broken," he said.

Friends would later tell Marrese that two of the bouncers fell on him as he was dragged, unconscious, from the bar.

Vangilder, the head of Rumrunner's security, said he has never heard that claim. The night Marrese says he was hurt at the bar there was a large fight on the dance floor, Vangilder said.

"People on top of people. That was a huge mess, it was a huge brawl. He was on the bottom of it," Vangilder said.

Marrese described his encounter and injuries in an email to the Daily News at the time, five months before the recent criminal charges against the bar became public.

"The severe lack of training of their bouncers is not helping the problem at all. The violence at that place is almost on a schedule," Marrese wrote. "Their ignorant lack of a reaction to the growing violence has literally put my life on hold ... and the owners refuse to even acknowledge it happened."

Unlike states such as California and New York, Alaska does not require bouncers to undergo criminal background checks or complete mandatory training before starting work.

After a 24-year-old died in a struggle with bouncers at Chilkoot Charlie's in 2004, lawmakers and Anchorage Assembly members talked about mandating some form of bouncer training.

The new rules never materialized, though the Anchorage Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association began offering optional classes for bouncers and bar security in 2005.

As long as the liquor industry group was moving quickly to address the problem, there was no need for the Assembly to pass an ordinance to require training, late downtown Assemblyman Allan Tesche said at the time.

Rumrunner's owner, Basilio Gallo, is listed as a board member of Anchorage CHARR. The organization's website says the bouncer training is still available.

An attorney for Rumrunner's did not respond when asked if bouncers at the bar, including Lampkin, completed the training.

Vangilder, the security head, said current Rumrunner's bouncers have not completed the training, but may do so this summer. The bar has held two security meetings with a CHARR representative over the past two months, he said.

"We have a big operations manual that has been recently printed out so every bouncer has a copy of it, knows what's expected, knows how we treat different situations," Vangilder said.

The bar does not require background checks of bouncers, he said, though that too is being considered. The security manager's own criminal record includes convictions for driving under the influence in 2005 and 2010.

STATE VIOLATIONS

The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which regulates sales of alcohol, has issued Rumrunner's at least nine "notices of violations" since 2010, according to the City Clerk's office. The Public Safety Department dismissed at least one of the accusations: that 19-year-old Bristol Palin was illegally allowed into the bar. Other accusations, including the claim that a Rumrunner's employee illegally sold alcohol on a bus ferrying customers between the Anchorage bar and a sister bar in Mat-Su, led to criminal charges against employees.

One employee, David Gallo, pleaded guilty to the illegal sale of alcohol on the shuttle, court records show. Gallo admitted he knew he was selling beverages illegally but was doing so at the direction of then-Rumrunner's manager Mike Shomer, according to the notice of violation. Another employee faces a charge of selling alcohol to an underage person on Feb. 11, according to notice of violation.

Another notice of violation, on Nov. 6, was prompted by confusion over exactly who owns Rumrunner's. Shomer was described as a part-owner on state Commerce Department records, but not on the business's liquor license, the ABC Board said. Amodio, the Rumrunner's attorney, said paperwork claiming Shomer was an owner was filed in error and has since been corrected.

'TAKEN DOWN HARD'

Basilio Gallo, a stakeholder in multiple Anchorage and Mat-Su bars and restaurants, is now listed as the sole owner in state records. Gallo's corporation faces a civil lawsuit by 26-year-old Pepsi salesman Johnny Brown, the former Rumrunner's customer who police say was beaten by a bouncer or bouncers at the bar on Oct. 23, prompting the criminal indictment. Brown is asking for at least $100,000 in damages in the suit.

His alleged encounter with bar security and the subsequent cover-up by Rumrunner's are at the heart of the current criminal case against the bar.

The charges against Rumrunner's made public so far offer few details about what police believe happened that night. Brown says he had been drinking with a friend and was drunk, arguing with a woman at the bar, when a bouncer approached him.

Brown said he was preparing to leave when the security guard put him in a chokehold and tossed him outside. Brown punched the bouncer, Murville Lampkin, in the jaw, he said.

The bar's security team leaped on him and cuffed his hands behind his back, he said. Rather than call 911 and report the assault, bouncers hauled Brown into a downstairs office where Lampkin and another man began to beat him, he said.

Brown suffered skull and facial fractures. "I got a broken orbital bone on my left eye. I got eight stitches. The eye tissue came down into my nasal cavity and they had to take the tissue back out of my nose and put it back behind my eye."

Brown's friend, worried about his buddy, called 911, police say.

Former prosecutor Kevin Fitzgerald is the attorney for Rumrunner's in the criminal case. He said Brown was likely "taken down hard" to the ground after landing a sucker punch to the bouncer. But what Brown didn't mention is that his party was involved in some kind of physical confrontation with security at Platinum Jaxx, another downtown bar, before coming to Rumrunner's, Fitzgerald said.

"(Rumrunner's) security was persuaded not to press charges against him, only to have Brown make claims about him being assaulted," he said.

Lampkin's attorney, Brent Cole, said Lampkin no longer works at Rumrunner's. He declined to say if Lampkin quit or was fired.

Either way, Lampkin is eager to tell people what he says really happened, Cole said.

"Both my client and I are looking forward to telling our side of this case, which clearly has not been reported in either the paper or in the charging document."

'NO MORE FORCE THAN NECESSARY'

Roman Gimeno says a bouncer punched him because he taunted the man outside the bar on July 4, 2010. He ended the night in a police car, his dress shirt sopped in his own blood. Bar employees lied to police, saying he was the one who assaulted them, Gimeno said.

Police accused Gimeno of trespassing, assault and destruction of property.

The charges were dropped, court records show, though Gimeno paid Rumrunner's $395.85 for breaking a glass door while attempting to escape from the bouncers. Through his attorney, he apologized to the bouncer who he now says attacked him.

Marrese, the Hott Stixx waiter, said he'd hoped to file a civil suit against Rumrunner's to recover the cost of his medical bills, but he couldn't find a lawyer willing to take the case.

Others customers who claim they were hurt at the bar have sued and lost.

A former Fort Richardson soldier, Bradley Woody, alleged in a 2011 lawsuit that a Rumrunner's bouncer broke his ankle when he tackled Woody at the bar.

A Rumrunner's attorney claimed security footage of the incident would prove the bar faultless in the injury, Woody said, but when the case went to trial, Rumrunner's did not produce the footage.

"Two weeks before the trial they magically didn't have it," said his attorney, Steven Smith.

In testimony in early November, security manager Vangilder said Woody was never handcuffed. Bar policy required that if a customer was cuffed, police had to be called, he said.

Vangilder's remarks came less than two weeks after 26-year-old Johnny Brown was handcuffed after he punched Lampkin in the face outside the bar. Security did not call police..

In an interview by phone Friday, Vangilder said Rumrunner's bouncers may have intended to call police but had not yet done so when Brown's friend called 911.

"If I had to guess, I would say they didn't get to that point yet," said Vangilder, who had not been working at the bar for several months at the time. He returned to the job in March, he said.

Fitzgerald, Rumrunner's attorney in the criminal case, said he didn't know if the bar has a policy requiring bouncers to call police when a patron is handcuffed. Asked if the bar has a written code of conduct for bouncers, Fitzgerald says there is "a general standard," which is "to use no more force than necessary to achieve the goal."


Twitter updates: twitter.com/adn_kylehopkins. Call Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334 or email him at khopkins@adn.com.

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