Monday, 30 January 2012

Beware of the fallout!

L.A. Bar Brawl
I want to tell you a true story today from my own personal life that happened 18 years ago. Generally, a lot of the things I've been through I keep to myself but I feel this may help someone else down the road so I'll tell it.

Now since this involves real people I'm going to give you the disclaimer now and tell you that I'm going to change names and use generic names for places because even though I'm ok with telling this story other people involved may want to keep their private incidents private so it's out of respect that I do so.

This happened at the ripe old age of 19, for me a couple years before I got into private security and even further down the road - personal protection work. I'd been doing martial arts since aged 4 but the physical training involved in that wasn't going to help me was all mental.

I was with a cousin who was a couple years older and he had to sneak me into a bar. It was an old trick that I won't disclose because I don't want kids reading this and using it....because it would still totally work. We both had more dollars than sense and went right for the harder drinks - White Russians, screamin' blue mutha f$%kers; you get the picture. If I remember right we even broke out the bar book.

Well it got to be close to 1:30am and they were doing last call. We were feeling 10 feet tall and bulletproof and decided that we weren't done partying. We asked a couple of the guys around us and they told us about an all night place and how to get there. Since technically it was a club not a business it could stay open all night and all you had to do to be a member was sign in at the door. I'd never heard of the place but my cousin had and said it was pretty rough there. Well if you tell a tough 19 year old guy that, it’s just gonna make him want to go more and that's exactly what I did. So off we went as fast as we could get there.

When we got there it was just like those guys told us. It was a big place and they asked no questions, just had us sign in at the door. We got a couple drinks but didn't want to stick out too much because I was technically underage so we noticed a pool table in the back and went over there to play a few games. It was only 2 am and the bars were just closing so there were very few people in there, we'd beaten the crowd.

As we played our game of pool there was a commotion up towards the front. There were these two guys sitting at a high top table right in the middle of the place and apparently there was an argument and one guy punched the other. Well of course the staff jumped the guy that threw the punch and broke it up then threw him out and told him he needed to cool down. The other guy got up, sat back down and just kept on drinking. We kinda shrugged it off at the time because this was a lesson we had yet to learn.

By then the crowd was coming in and the place got packed. It was like every bar in town emptied into this bottleneck after hours. There was even a band that started at 3 am. Well we kept drinking, the band kept playing, the girls kept dancing, and the men kept chasing the girls that were dancing. In other words, everything was normal. We started to get to know the staff and talking about different drinks. Other than the two guys fighting earlier it was a pretty nice time.

About 4 am or maybe a little later we moved over to the other side of the bar by the door talking to some other bartender. I remember seeing him look at the door and get real serious. So I turned and looked and I recognized the guy. It was the guy from earlier that had been thrown out for punching that other guy. I heard him tell the doorman," Hey I was sittin' at home and got to thinkin'...I feel real bad about what happened earlier, I never should've punched him I should've let it ride. I'm not staying or anything I just wanted to apologize to him if he's still here."

Now a real doorman would've said I can't let you in, but this was the good ol' boy club in the Deep South where everyone thinks they know everyone. For the future, if you’re a newbie doorman reading this...that guy should never be allowed back in. I don't give a damn what he says.

Anyway back to the story. At the time everyone once again shrugged it off and I turned back around and took another drink. Then I heard the shot. All hell broke loose and the guy ran outside. The shot was right behind my head and it was loud....VERY LOUD! I was disoriented stumbling off the stool holding my ears. I looked to my left and saw a guy running for the door holding the side off his head with blood gushing down his arm screaming, “Call the cops!" I looked to my right and on the floor I saw it. It was his ear blown right from the side of his head just laying there between my cousin and me.

Some other guy ran up to the door and threw a chair outside and broke out running then I heard at least two more gunshots. Now bear in mind all of this was probably happening in less than 10 seconds. For some ungodly reason my cousin ran for the door too but he was going to run out right in the line of fire. I tried to tackle him but he fought it and we banged against the wall. I got his feet off the ground but another chair had been knocked over behind me so we fell over it and hit the back of my head on the floor but I couldn't feel anything.

I remember looking up and seeing the bartender come flying over the bar and over us as I tried to keep my cousin on the ground but I could see out the door. The original shooter either ran out of bullets or his gun jammed I can't remember but for whatever reason the gun wouldn't fire. He charged the bartender and the bartender popped him in the back of the head with the butt of his pistol and he went down. Some people grabbed him but I never saw where they went. I was talking to my cousin and making sure he wasn't running out there and getting up.

The bartender walked back up to the entrance and turned his back to us looking back into the parking lot. Then my genius of a cousin decides to dive for the gun. Well that went over like a turd in a punch bowl. To this day I don't know what got into him and when I ask him he doesn't remember. The bartender yanks his hand back then puts it towards my cousin. To this day I don't know why I did what I did but I’m glad if did it. I stepped in front of the gun. I looked at the bartender he was furious his hand was shaking.

I remember the conversation going something like this:

Me:”Dude, he's just drunk man we ain't gotta do this!”
Bartender: “What the hell is wrong with him I could kill you man?”
Me: “I know man, I know he's just drunk man, we don't even know them people!”
Me: “Come on man just let it ride let this one ride let's just chill. Let's all just chill”
Bartender: “That was really stupid!”
Me: “I know man it was just a mistake let's just calm down.”

I breathed a sigh of relief when he finally put the gun down. Actually, he bought us two drinks on the house. It's a good night when you have free alcohol and don't get shot to death.

Some woman came out and told the bartender the police were on their way and apparently he already had some type of warrant for something so he hauled ass out of there.

Then it hit me that once again, I was under age and she’d just said the cops were on their way. They quarantined the building and put us all on lockdown. They had a guy taking pictures of the ceiling. I was playing darts and trying to play it cool. They were investigating a shootout so they didn't ask for ID or anything like that. They finally let us go around 7 am. We were all dumb and lucky. We were lucky to be alive and had literally dodged a bullet.

A great lesson was learned on many notes that would help me in my profession for years to come and I still use this story to teach people. I alluded to this very same lesson in an article called Are You In A Sport Art And Don't Know It?

If you get in a fight win, lose, or draw, leave immediately, don't hang around. The fallout is usually worse than the fight. In this instance a guy got his ear blown off, another got pistol whipped, I got a knot on my head and a gun pointed towards it. In the years after this when I worked as a bouncer it was always a rule: if you have to fight a guy and put him out then you get your payout for the night and get sent home. He may come back looking for you with more people or better weapons.

These days they can use the wands to detect weapons that they didn't use back then but if the guy had left after he got hit before 2 am none of this would've happened. At least it wouldn't have happened in that bar and put those people in danger. We were all innocent bystanders; we shouldn't have been brought into some freaky redneck drama. This shooter went home, sat there and plotted this attempted murder. He came back and had every intention to do it. This could happen in any club on any given night when some idiot makes a bad decision.

There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from this story but this one is the main one to focus on: After a violent event no matter how small it seems don't hang around doing a victory dance or whatever the hell you do. This isn't UFC or some other sport. This isn't WWE this is real life and people get murdered over things like this every day. If you’re involved in some kind of bar fight or any other kind of fight do yourself a favour, for your safety and the safety of the people around you.....GO HOME!

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