Rumrunner's covered up beating by bouncer, police say

Kyle Hopkins
Photo courtesy of Johnny Brown

Johnny Brown, a 26-year-old Pepsi salesman, was drunk and arguing with a woman at a downtown Anchorage bar one night in late October, he said.

"I wouldn't have driven home that night, but I wasn't out of control," he said. Brown said a friend approached and the pair was preparing to leave Rumrunner's Old Towne Bar & Grill on 4th Avenue when the bouncer grabbed him.

What happened next is at the center of an unusual criminal case, as well as a civil lawsuit.

Police say bar security hauled Brown outside and, after Brown punched one of the bouncers, cuffed him, forced him downstairs and beat him. One member of the security team, Murville L. Lampkin, a 39-year-old with a lengthy arrest record, has been charged with felony assault, police announced Wednesday.

Here's what makes the case a strange one: The corporation that owns Rumrunner's faces an assault charge too, plus charges of evidence tampering and falsifying records to hide the crime, according to a March 15 indictment unsealed this week.

Lawyers for the business say prosecutors are overreaching by blaming the corporation for an alleged attack by an employee, a "bizarre and unprecedented" move.

A spokesman for AB&M Enterprises, owners of the bar, says police have it wrong and strongly disputes the charges.

"Even if he (the bouncer) did those things, if someone did that, the corporation is completely blameless," said Tom Amodio, a lawyer for the business. "We don't understand why APD is going after the corporation."

Police say someone at the business erased or destroyed video evidence of the attack. Investigators are beginning to think Brown wasn't the only customer roughed up at Rumrunner's, said Lt. David Parker, a police spokesman.

They're asking for others who have been assaulted at the bar to contact the department, Parker said. "This may have been more of a method of dealing with unruly patrons than the rare exception."

'THEY WOULDN'T STOP ASSAULTING ME'

Brown, who is 5-foot, 10-inches tall and about 180 pounds, says Lampkin grabbed him in the bar and put an arm around his neck, choking him and hauling him outside.

Brown admits to fighting the bouncer, and says he landed a punch.

"Around seven security guards jumped on top of me and that's when they handcuffed me and brought me back inside," he said.

With his wrists cuffed behind his back, Brown says he was brought inside a downstairs office. He sat in a chair, he said. Lampkin and possibly another bouncer began to punch him in the face, Brown said.

"They wouldn't stop assaulting me until I agreed not to press charges," he said.

Brown said he suffered multiple facial fractures, two skull fractures and a broken orbital bone. A doctor removed tissue from his nasal cavity, he said. Eight stitches closed the wounds, Brown said.

Brown said he was gratified to see the criminal charges against the corporation, which should be responsible for the people it hires, he said. "They just basically think they can do whatever they want because they're security of a bar."

Lampkin, the bouncer charged in the attack, pleaded no contest to driving under the influence in 2011, court records show. He was previously convicted of promoting contraband and drug possession in a 2002 case, assault in 2000, and second-degree vehicle theft in 1998, among other charges.

Amodio, the lawyer for the corporation, said he didn't know if Lampkin was subject to a background check before his hire. "We're instituting measures to improve overall security, including things like background checks," he said.

HOW MUCH FORCE?

The debate over how much force a bouncer can use to subdue unruly customers raged in Anchorage following death of Gerald Haynes, a 24-year-old who died in a struggle with Chilkoot Charlie's bouncers in March 2004. Police investigated the death but state prosecutors did not bring criminal charges against the bar or bouncers.

Amodio said the corporation is still investigating what happened at Rumrunner's last fall, but disputes the police account.

"We don't think anything of a criminal nature happened," he said.

In a statement Wednesday, lawyers for the Rumrunner's ownership said prosecutors are inappropriately using the Oct. 23 encounter between Brown and the bouncers in an attempt to expand corporate liability beyond all reasonable limits.

"Sadly, the purpose in bringing the charges appears designed to create negative publicity and other adverse collateral consequences to induce the corporation to settle," the statement said.

Kevin Fitzgerald, a former prosecutor who also is representing the owners, declined to talk about specifics of the case but called the charges against the corporation highly unusual.

"I know of no other instance in which a claim has been made against a corporation based on an assault allegedly made by an employee," he said.

Parker, the police spokesman, said Rumrunner's should have simply called police when Brown hit a member of the security team.

"This is not the Wild West," Parker said. "This is not 1956 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is Anchorage, Alaska, 2012, and if this behavior is tolerated, it's lawlessness."

It was Brown's friend who called 911 to report he was worried about his buddy, who had disappeared to the basement with a squad of bouncers, police said.

Brown said the attack stopped when police arrived.

"If (my friend) wouldn't have called the cops, who knows what would have happened," he said.


By KYLE HOPKINS
Anchorage Daily News
Contact Kyle Hopkins at or on