It’s normal to try and squeeze in an extra drink or two before closing time. And that impulse is even stronger now with so many bars across America shutting earlier than normal amid COVID-19-related restrictions.
Still, there is no excuse for the behavior that unfolded last weekend at a South Carolina watering hole.
After informing a group of drinkers that the bar in Charleston was closed, a bartender was shot and is now recovering in hospital.
According to reports from local station WCBD and other media, the incident happened last Friday night. The group had stepped outside the establishment but got belligerent after being told it was closing time and that they couldn’t come back in.
The victim, Javar Dwayne Middleton, 28, was said to be “alert and conscious” as of Feb. 6, according to a report in the Charleston Post and Courier.
Middleton was an employee at King Street Public House, according to Charleston police. The shooting happened Feb. 5 about 11 p.m., when bars in the city of Charleston were preparing to close due to COVID-19 restrictions put in place by state officials.
City of Charleston police were patrolling nearby when they heard gunshots coming from inside King Street Public House, according to an incident report. Officers said a group of four people became upset about being told to leave the bar at closing time and being refused entry back inside. They got into a verbal dispute with bar bouncers on the sidewalk in front of the door.
Bartender Middleton went to the door to assist his colleagues when one of the members of the group pulled a handgun and fired at the staff before running off.
Police arrived moments later to find Middleton on the ground next to the pinball machines near the bar, wounded with a gunshot to his left leg.
Zachary Estes, an 18-year-old freshman at the College of Charleston, told the Post and Courier that he was standing outside the bar when he heard a series of loud noises — pop, pop, pop.
“The bars were getting out at 11 (p.m.) like they’re supposed to,” Estes said. “I thought it was fireworks.”
When he turned around and saw a man in a red shirt holding a “subcompact” handgun. The man fled.
At least one bullet hole was visible in the bar’s windows and officers kept the street cordoned off with crime scene tape for more than an hour.
Standing on King near the scene, Estes said he saw Middleton, who’d collapsed and was slamming the ground with his fist.
The 28-year-old was screaming that he’d been shot, he said.
“I didn’t know where he’d been hit but I saw blood and he said he was hit in the leg,” Estes said.
He pressed his hands onto the man’s thigh and tried to comfort him until police arrived, the college freshman said.
The hunt for the suspects continued over the weekend. Meanwhile, the shooting comes as the South Carolina Statehouse is taking up a bill that would allow trained gun owners to openly carry their weapons in public.
South Carolina is currently one of only five states that prohibits the open carrying of handguns for permit holders, along with California, Florida, New York and Illinois.