LIMA — When a grand jury released the prime suspect last week in a fatal bar shooting, law enforcement responded with beefed up weekend patrols, targeting Lima's drinking establishments.That's not fair, said the owners of several downtown bars. They said the strong-arm tactics scared away law-abiding patrons and hurt business.Police officials confirmed they added weekend patrols, coordinating with the Allen County Sheriff's Office, after a grand jury refused to indict Charles Maxey Jr., 21, of Lima, in the Feb. 25 slaying of 22-year-old Tajh Gibson.The owners of four city bars met Monday with The Lima News to complain about what they called inconsistent enforcement. The said their businesses and patrons aren't the troublemakers the police should be watching.One of them, Derek Solomon, owner of the Blarney Stone Pub, 122 E. North St., said Lima officers and Allen County sheriff's deputies broke up his karaoke contest around midnight Sunday. It took seven officers more than 15 minutes to serve him with a noise violation he contends he did not deserve.“No one made a complaint about my establishment. The officer said he drove by and heard it,” Solomon said. “I'm surrounded by parking lots and a neighboring bar, so who would complain?”Throughout the incident, six patrol cars parked out front with their light bars flashing.“I said, ‘Man, this is crazy, why didn't you just warn me?' They said, ‘No, no warnings. We're writing you up for this noise citation.'” Solomon said. He added that an officer told him the department had cited Stormy's and AJ's Tavern — two nightspots frequented by many of Lima's black community.“And he said, ‘You feel me? You feel me?' What am I supposed to feel out of this?” Solomon asked. “Are you using me as a prop to be discriminating towards the so-called — no disrespect — the black bars in Lima? Are you using me as a prop because of Jason Upthegrove getting up there and saying you're so racist, you can say, ‘No we're not, we gave Derek Solomon one'?”As Solomon spoke, AJ's Tavern owner James Davenport sat next to him, nodding in agreement, along with Davenport's partner Rob Brewster, Porter's Pub owner Travis Whitney and Moe's Dugout owner Moe Tackett.Upthegrove, president of the local National Association of the Advancement of Colored People chapter, co-owns the Brownstone Bar and Restaurant, which has been cited several times recently for liquor law violations. Stormy's is where Gibson was gunned down in February.After his bar was cited, Solomon said, he drove by another bar where the music was three to four times as loud as what he was cited for, so he phoned in an anonymous complaint to see how police responded. After about 25 minutes, two officers pulled up, entered the bar for less than a minute and left with a verbal warning.“I have a scanner in my car so I heard them say, ‘Station, we're 10-2 with a verbal,'” he said. The bar owners said they want to know how city events like Square Fair and Rally in the Alley can operate without concern for a noise ordinance — and take business away from the local bars.“Why should they be able to promote and have their activities downtown with loud music at all kinds of hours, but the minute these businesses, who are struggling to make it because the bar business has dropped off so much, suffer because of what the cops are doing in this town?” Solomon said. Maj. Chip Protsman, commander of patrol officer services for the Lima Police Department, said officers were working extra duty over the weekend in anticipation of increased activity as the spring weather improves.“It was an attempt to make sure things stay calm,” Protsman said.He said a unit on special operations assignment will look for citable violations, while routine patrols responding to a complaint are looking for problem resolution — which probably explains why the one bar got a verbal warning while the Blarney Stone did not.“I don't want to say it's different, but if a guy's out working special operations, he's paying attention to certain things,” Prostman said.He said the relatively new practice of deputies and city officers riding together benefits both departments as well as the public. The tandem patrols have been going on sporadically for a couple of months, he said.While the city's noise ordinance relies on the judgment of the patrolman, Protsman said, data gathered from recent community policing surveys identify noise problems as the No. 1 priority for day-to-day enforcement. Several years ago, he said, the city tried to enforce noise violations by measuring volume, but the attempt wasn't very successful.“It is the officer's perception, and we want them to have discretion in how the ordinance is set up as to whether or not they'll issue a citation.”Solomon filed a complaint over how the situation was handled. Protsman said he'll need to review the complaint and specific details of the incident before addressing some of them. He said the cruiser had to park in front of the Blarney Stone, and flashing lights are necessary to make the stopped cruisers visible to passing traffic.Protsman said he's sensitive to the bar owners' complaints about loss of revenue.“The last thing we want to do is run any business out of town or hurt any business,” he said. “We've worked with numerous bars around the city when we're getting complaints about anything. We'll be more than happy to sit down with them and say, ‘This is what's expected; if you follow these guidelines, you won't have any problems.' We are more than happy to do that. That may be something that comes out of this citizen's complaint that he filled out.”You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.
Tara Cutlip, 21 and pregnant with her second child, was shot and killed Saturday in her Bahama Drive home. Loved ones gather in front of Tara's home to remember her and speak out against domestic violence.