Bounce Check

Club patrons are getting hurt.
Many blame poorly trained security staff.

By Brian Hickey
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 21, 2001

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When Charles Lovelady decided to wear a hooded sweatshirt to a nightclub, he didn't know it would cost him his life.

It had nothing to do with the color of Love-lady's sweatshirt. This was no gang-related dust-up. He had simply violated the club's dress code.

When Lovelady got the heave on that February night last year, he didn't go quietly. Instead, the 26-year-old struggled with the club's bouncers and ended up dead on the ground as the music played on inside.

Days later, a medical examiner said Lovelady had been strangled, that a deadly chokehold had cut off his breathing. Eight months later, a jury in an Iowa courtroom heard Johnnie Cochran urge them to convict the bouncers of involuntary manslaughter.

But they didn't.

They chose to believe it was a tragic accident.

Still, Lovelady's death did make a difference.

Reacting to the case, Des Moines Mayor Preston Daniels pushed for a law requiring bars and clubs to teach bouncers and other security personnel how to safely mediate disputes. The four-hour sessions also focus on how to physically handle problems without causing permanent damage or injury.

It's the first such law (without training, a bar in Des Moines can't get a liquor license) in the country.

There's nothing even close to it in Philadelphia.

With the number of bouncer-related lawsuits on the rise, everyone from insurers and security experts to clubgoers and bouncers think other cities may soon follow Des Moines' lead.

"In many ways, you can't blame the guys," says Cleveland-based security consultant Ralph Witherspoon. "They have no training and aren't really told what to do. But a lot of innocent people are getting hurt."

A man sues a Bensalem nightclub, claiming employees brutally beat and choked him before throwing him down a flight of stairs in an unprovoked attack. He suffered two fractured ribs and had choke marks on his neck.

A jury awards a New Jersey man $815,000 in damages when he is choked until unconscious after making a rude comment to a go-go dancer. He claims the assault left him with brain damage and occasional epileptic seizures.

Parents of a 21-year-old Hatboro man who died after a bouncer karate-kicked him outside a Horsham Township bar file suit. The bouncer gets four years of probation after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

A Philadelphia man says a bouncer punched three people in the face for getting too close. The club owner claims he heard no complaints, but the witness reports he was pushed into a car for walking in the wrong door of the trendy hotspot.

The above examples span two decades, which means bouncers manhandling patrons is hardly a new phenomenon. But when a club employee's aggressive actions grab the public's attention, it can devastate a business' reputation.

Take the case of Atlantic City cop Michael Rivera Sr.

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