Nightclub management says hitting was "justified" to remove customer

Nightclub management says hitting was "justified" to remove customer
Video shows a Ropers bouncer elbowing the customer in the face as he was being removed. Source: Kyle Gardner.

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Management at Ropers Rockin Country is speaking out after a video was posted on social media of a man being hit in the face while he was being thrown out of the Hattiesburg nightclub.

Kyle Gardner took the video at Ropers Rockin' Country on Friday night. He said he decided to take out his cell phone and start filming when he saw the customer being dragged through the nightclub.

"Pretty much any bar you go to, you are going to see that at some point in the night, but never to the extent that you see here at Ropers," said Gardner.

In the video posted to Facebook, you can see several employees, we're told that are two bouncers and bar backs, holding a man close to the door, when one of the bouncers starts elbowing the customer in the face. You can hear one of his coworkers telling him to stop in the short clip. The video has been viewed more than 57,000 times.

"I believe after watching the cameras, there was a lot of misconception as to what happened," said Security Manager Josh Deen. "The customer is not being held down, the force was ended immediately as soon as I got there, the customer was removed."

Ropers showed surveillance video from the evening to WDAM today, but did not want to release it to the public due to possible litigation.

In the video, you can see the customer, that was later thrown out, entering the club through what managers said is the exit, without paying. Management said he did not have enough money to pay the entrance fee, but then someone paid for him.

General Manager Terri McFarlin said he sat at the bar, which you can see in the video, and put a can of beer not sold at the bar there. He was asked to leave the bar once he did not order anything.

According to Hattiesburg Police, Ropers management told officers Friday that the customer was harassing people inside the nightclub. The video showed him walking around the dance floor, but there was no sound as to what was going on.

Around 10:45 p.m., two bouncers approached the customer and started to escort him out of the bar, with a hand on his back. At one point, the customer turns and it appeared bouncers grabbed him, both falling to the ground with the customer in a choke hold.

That is when other employees joined in and a man on top of the customer elbows him twice in the face. WDAM asked if that force was necessary to remove the customer.

"Yes it was, at that time," said McFarlin.

Outside video showed the man getting up off the sidewalk after being thrown out the door and making gestures, at one point attempting to enter the nightclub again through the front door.

It appears a woman and others show up outside during the incident and authorities arrive on scene. Management said the man was making threatening comments to the employees.

McFarlin said bouncers are trained to handle any situation.

"To remove the person with as little commotion as possible, but it doesn't always work out that way," said McFarlin.

Deen said they do their best to keep customers safe and they will continue to do that.

HPD spokesman Ryan Moore said the department was not confirming that officers didn't find any wrongdoing.

Moore said that because the crime is a misdemeanor charge, (simple assault), the victim has to press charges on the individuals involved to move the matter forward.

"If it were elevated, injury wise or to aggravated, or actually witnessed in person by an officer, then it would go differently," said Moore.

WDAM spoke to a woman claiming to be the mother of the victim. She said they are planning to press charges.

Gardner said this is not the first violent incident involving bouncers at Ropers that he has witnessed. Many commented on the Facebook video sharing similar experiences.

Management said fights at the nightclub have actually gone down in the last few years.