GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — The owner of the Blind Tiger in Greensboro is asking the courts to let the venue have its ABC permits back and offered his description of the events leading up to the deadly shooting on July 31.
The motion comes a month after 19-year-old Pedro Alegria was shot and killed in the parking lot that the venue shares with other businesses on that corridor on July 31.
Owner Bradford McCauley, 47, of Winston-Salem, has since been charged with failing to superintend and hiring unlicensed armed security. Manager Donald Beck Jr., 55, of Greensboro, was charged with allowing violations to occur on the ABC-licensed premises and hiring unlicensed armed security.
Jason Leonard, 28, — who was earlier charged with second-degree murder in connection to the shooting — and Anthony Delaney, 28, both of Greensboro, were charged with providing unlicensed armed security and allowing violations to occur on the ABC-licensed premises. The Blind Tiger said Leonard worked for a third-party contractor providing security as a bouncer at the venue, but the ALE investigation revealed the bouncer was not licensed through the North Carolina Private Protective Services Board.
The North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission suspended the ABC permits for the venue after ABC officials reviewed affidavits submitted by NC ALE special agents and officers of the Greensboro Police Department.
On Wednesday, however, the Blind Tiger filed a motion asking the courts to issue a stay of the suspension and grant a temporary restraining order to prevent ALE from enforcing the suspension.
Along with that motion, two new affidavits were filed offering McCauley’s perspective, as well as that of Justus Ellis, one of the security contractors who was working that night.
‘Death threats’ and possibility of closing the Blind Tiger
McCauley says the Blind Tiger has tried to stay open despite losing its ABC permits, “but the business is not economically viable or feasible without the authorization afforded by its ABC permits.”
If the court does not stay the ABC permit suspension, the owner says the business may be “forced to close down permanently for lack of revenue sufficient to meet even minimum necessary expenses of the business.” He says this is, in part, connected to the damage done to the venue’s reputation by the suspension.
“I have personally received death threats and verbal abuse, and have been forced to materially alter mine and my family’s daily lives in an attempt to avoid direct encounters with people in my own community,” he said in the affidavit.
He adds that several managers have been “accosted, harassed and ridiculed.”
“In one instance, a key bar manager for the business received so many online threats that she was forced to quit the business in the interest of her personal safety,” McCauley said.
Employees looking for alternative work are allegedly being refused because of their connection with the Blind Tiger.
What happened on July 31?
McCauley, in his testimony, pushes back against the 21-page summary of the deadly shooting, including the testimony of police officers, that was revealed earlier this month. That summary described the moments leading up to and after Alegria’s death and describe the alleged events of that night, including underage drinking, a guard brandishing a gun, a guard hiding the weapon used to kill Alegria, employees trying to keep police from entering the venue and people trying to wash blood off of a brick wall at the venue.
He said that, around 2:45 a.m., a Greensboro police officer called him and told him to go to the venue and that a deadly shooting had taken place outside the front door. He arrived about 45 minutes later, and ALE agents told him that the shooter was one of the “unarmed independent security contractors staffing the event.”
He said he watched the surveillance footage and saw that Alegria and his group were “subject to the procedure for determining whether they were of suitable age to purchase and consume alcohol.”
They appeared to pay for two adjoining VIP tables and were escorted to the tables.
He says that members of Alegria’s group destroyed a security mechanism that had been affixed to the top of the bottle at the table so that they could drink freely. The mechanism was in place to make sure that only staff could pour drinks.
He says a conflict erupted between Alegria’s group and another group, and security stepped in. When another conflict erupted, security escorted both groups out of the venue.
McCauley then says a guard, who was not supposed to have a gun, approached the group with a weapon drawn, and one of the people involved in the fight had “inadvertent contact” with the guard’s arm, causing the gun to fire.
“Most of the aggressors leave the area, with the exception of Pedro Alegria and four other aggressors. Pedro Alegria and the four others escalate the altercation further, with Pedro Alegria the most obvious agressor repeatedly striking down on another. A member of the onduty unarmed independent contractor security appears from around a corner holding a firearm, entering the area of the altercation. A member of the group outside the business appears to make inadvertent contact with the arm holding the firearm which conicides with the discharge thereof resulting in the gunshot strike to Pedrio Alegria.”
He says the business and staff cooperated with law enforcement, voluntarily gave police the video footage “almost immediately” and helped to identify the shooter as Jason Leonard.
McCauley says he told police as soon as he found out that a gun that was potentially connected to the shooting was in an office desk.
Another guard, Justus Ellis, said he was working security that night with an estimated 10 other unarmed security contractors.
“When working for the Blind Tiger, security contractors are under clear instruction that no firearms are allowed at any time, anywhere on the premises,” Ellis said.
Ellis was stationed at a side door exit with instructions to only let patrons leave through the exit, not enter.
At about 1:50 a.m., he says he helped stop a fight in the venue and escort the people involved out. He then went back to the side door where he was stationed.
When he noticed that another fight had erupted outside, he went to help the other security contractors separate them.
“As I was separating the individuals that were fighting, Jason Leonard appeared with a firearm in his hand,” Ellis said. “Since we as security contractors are told explicitly that we are not to possess or carry firearms, seeing Jason Leonard in possession of one was shocking to me.”
Ellis says he didn’t see Leonard fire the gun, but he did hear the gunshot. After hearing the gunshot, he went back into the business to lock it down and prevent anyone from getting hurt.
What did investigators say happened on July 31?
The teenager was among a group of about 10 people allowed into the venue on Sunday, July 31, a witness told officers according to court affidavits. The witness said no one in their group had to show identification to get in. They only had to tell the bouncer what year they were born. Five of the people in the group were under the age of 21, and nearly all of the group drank alcohol once inside.
The group had a reservation for two VIP tables, which included a bottle of liquor and juice mixes, the documents say. They also bought three buckets of beer.
The witness told police that a man in a separate group sitting nearby said a racial slur in Spanish, referencing some of the people in Alegria’s group. An argument erupted and two of Alegria’s friends and a person at another table began hitting each other. Security guards then kicked them out, but the fight continued in the parking lot.
An ALE agent who had a chance to review the surveillance video said a security guard of the Blind Tiger approached the fight near the front door and brandished a gun before shooting Alegria at about 2:14 a.m. The guard then went back inside.
Inside the Blind Tiger, at about 2:18 a.m., the agent says a second security guard put a gun under papers in the top left drawer of the office desk. Beck, the manager, allegedly put his gun under the desk.
The two security guards then exit view of the camera before one of the guards returns to the office, removes something from his waistband, puts it in the top left drawer of the office desk and covers it with papers. The officer believes this was the suspected murder weapon.
Officers came to the Blind Tiger when they were told about a shooting in the area, according to the GPD.
According to the documents, an officer approached the gate of the Blind Tiger and asked if the victim was inside.
“The employee then moved to stand in front of the gate door to prevent me from entering the business and said ‘no, no victim is inside,'” the officer said in an affidavit. “The employee repeatedly advised that there was no one inside and that the victim was not inside the business.”
Another officer tried to enter the business but two “managers” standing outside “stated it was private property and police could not enter,” according to the documents.
Upon hearing shouting from the rear parking area, officers found Alegria suffering from a gunshot wound to the neck in the rear parking lot “behind the Damn Right Studios (1827 Spring Garden St), which is located in the same parking lot as the Blind Tiger.” Medical assistance was provided, but Alegria died of his injuries at the scene.
As officers investigated near the entrance of the venue, they say they found a single shell casing near the entrance to the parking lot and a trail of blood leading to where Alegria died.
Officers also spotted blood along a short, white brick wall outside the building. An agent, citing surveillance video, said that, at about 2:22 a.m., a man began to clean blood off the brick wall by pouring a bottle of water on it and scrubbing it with his shoes. A woman then uses a bucket of water to wash away the blood.
The police department says they did not find a gun on Alegria.