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The Friday after Thanksgiving was a big party night at D.C. Tunnel, a club just off New York Avenue’s industrial-cum-fast-food corridor. Actor Anwan Glover performed there with his go-go group, the Backyard Band. TCB and Project Pat also played. “It was a lot of people. A lot of energy and adrenaline,” Glover says.
The adrenaline wasn’t just pumping on the inside. At 3:17 a.m. on Nov. 24, according to an Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration report, four or five men exited D.C. Tunnel, also known as Club Envy, walked down the street to a black Dodge Charger, and began shooting—first at one another, then at the police. The police returned fire, the report says. About 12 to 15 shots were exchanged. The suspects then jumped into the car and sped off. “The vehicle did not stop for the police and the driver of the vehicle further attempted to elude the police by driving dangerously through Northeast Washington,” the report says.
When the Charger came to an abrupt halt in front of the Edgewood Apartment Complex in Northeast, four men jumped out, the report says. One of them fired shots at the police before running through the apartment complex. Inside, an officer apprehended Cornell Swangin, who had been shot in the left shoulder. A witness told police that he watched Swangin get out of the car, toss a handgun into the bushes, and flee into the apartment building.
Swangin and another subject, Charles Mobley, were arrested and transported to Howard University Hospital, the report says. Both men were charged with assault with intent to kill while armed and assault on a police officer while armed.
At 10 a.m., police chief Cathy Lanier invoked her emergency powers to close D.C. Tunnel. In a letter to alcohol administration director Maria Delaney, the chief said the club posed “a particularly grave” threat to public safety.
On Nov. 28, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board heard testimony from Capt. Lamar West, who arrived at the scene after receiving an alert for an “officer in trouble.” Board member Mital Gandhi asked West to describe the dangers posed by the club. “I wouldn’t say the club is dangerous. It’s some of the patrons who go there,” West replied. “This is the first time I’ve heard of an officer getting shot at like that. But then again, these people are getting more and more brazen every day.”
The board decided to return the club’s license on a provisional basis and require it to hire police officers to patrol the area outside. “Because of the sensitive nature of the situation, we have no comment,” D.C. Tunnel attorney Andrea Bagwell says.
Out Out Damn Spot
Business owners beware. Bleach can be toxic when mixed with ammonia or acid. It can also endanger your liquor license. Just ask Carlos Henriquez. He used bleach to clean up after a brawl at his restaurant. Now he may lose his livelihood.
In 2006, Henriquez and his wife opened El Pulgarcito de America, a tiny restaurant at 5313 Georgia Ave. NW. For nearly a year, things at the restaurant went off without a hitch. They did everything “by the book,” Henriquez’s lawyer, Stephenson F. Harvey Jr., testified before the ABC Board Nov. 28. Then, on Nov. 10, some customers got into an argument over what music to play. According to testimony from detective Sandy Blair, one of the victims, Enrique Melendez, was stabbed three times before the owner grabbed him and threw him and his cousin, who had also been stabbed, five times, out of the restaurant.
Henriquez said he did not see anyone get stabbed but did intervene in the fight. “I told them they were giving the restaurant too many problems and they weren’t going to be served anymore,” he testified. The men walked out, and the owner locked the door behind them. “I didn’t want them to come back,” he said.
A few minutes later, Henriquez heard police cars and ambulances approach the Popeye’s down the street. He looked outside, he says, and spotted some blood on the sidewalk. Since he didn’t want customers tracking blood across his floor, he started scrubbing. Teaming up with a regular patron named Samuel, he “used a little bit of bleach and cleaned up the entrance,” he testified. “Samuel was cleaning. I was throwing water with Clorox on top.”
But Blair said there must have been more than a little bleach used at the business that night. “As soon as I walked in, there was a smell of household bleach,” she testified. There was no mistaking the scent. “It was a very, very strong odor,” Blair said. “It was like, bang. You walked in, and it smacked you.”
Blair asked Henriquez where the smell was coming from. “They said they had cleaned it.” He added that the waitress uses a bit of bleach to clean tabletops and stifle the smell of spilled beer. “It’s to kill any bad odors in the restaurant and the odor of the beer,” he testified. Henriquez’s wife indicated that she also helped clean up, Blair said.
Michael Stern, who represented the Attorney General’s office, called on the ABC board to extend El Pulgarcito’s suspension. “They didn’t call the police, they didn’t provide any assistance,” he said. Plus, the bleach smell might suggest the owners did more than scrub the sidewalk that night. They may have been erasing evidence. “That smell, I suggest, comes from all the other cleaning that was involved,” he said. “We can’t let them open and do business as usual. You just don’t get a free stabbing.”
Harvey argued that his clients should not be held responsible “for the actions of two disorderly patrons that were injured after exiting the restaurant. They’re trying to better their lives.…Should they really be punished?”
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