City to revoke club's permit; police drop malicious wounding charges against man
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Police dropped charges against a man charged in connection to a nightclub stabbing after witnesses misidentified him from a photo lineup.
Meanwhile, Charleston officials said Thursday they would revoke the business permit for the Impulse Nightclub on Capitol Street, citing what they called the club's inability to keep its patrons safe.
Charleston police detectives dismissed three counts of malicious wounding against Roland William Willis, 22, of Charleston, on Wednesday, according to Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants.
Plants said Charleston police detectives developed probable cause to arrest Willis late Monday after several witnesses picked him out of a photo lineup. He was a suspect in connection with the stabbing of Kevin Clemens, 18.
Police continued their investigation after Willis' arrest and realized they had the wrong man, Plants said. Charges against Willis were immediately dismissed and he was released from South Central Regional Jail.
Police are now looking for Aris Hairston, 26, of Charleston, in connection with the stabbing.
Clemens told detectives he got into an altercation with a man who bumped into him on the dance floor inside the club early Sunday.
Security footage was rolling as the altercation spilled out onto the street and captured the man allegedly stabbing Clemens three times in the stomach.
Police believe that suspect is Hairston. Plants said Hairston and Willis look very similar and Willis was misidentified from that footage.
"The Charleston Police Department did exactly the right thing," he said. "As soon as probable cause no longer existed to keep [Willis] in custody, they dismissed the charges."
Clemens, a Pittsburgh resident and a football player at the University of Charleston, was taken to CAMC General Hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery on his liver. He was later released.
Mayor Danny Jones said Sunday's stabbing was one of many crimes police have linked to the club since it opened.
The business was issued a "conditional use permit" on March 27, 2007 after club owner Janet Amores and her business partner promised to open an upscale club for young professionals.
"What they wanted to do and what they have now are two complete, diametrically opposite things," Jones told reporters Thursday. "Club Impulse is not a plus to the city, it's a minus."
City Planning Director Dan Vriendt served a revocation letter to club manager Robby Parsons on Thursday morning. Vriendt said in the letter that he would revoke the permit because Amores and Parsons failed to protect their patrons.
Many people who drank at the club have been cited for public intoxication, underage drinking, disorderly conduct, battery and obstruction, Vriendt wrote.
Jones said the club's owners could appeal to the city's Board of Zoning Appeals within 30 days.
Jones criticized Amores and Parsons for permitting an 18-year-old to enter their bar.
"They said, 'Well we let him in but we don't let him drink.' Who are you kidding?" Jones said. "Who didn't drink when they were 18? Let's not kid ourselves here."
Without the permit, the business could still operate but wouldn't be permitted to serve liquor or beer.
"They could have a teen dance club I guess," Jones said.
Amores and Parsons did not return phone messages Thursday. Parsons previously told the Gazette that Sunday morning's stabbing happened down the street and not in front of Impulse.
Police Chief Brent Webster said security cameras positioned outside showed the altercation as it spilled out from the club and on to the street.
Webster said he met with Amores and Parsons a few years ago and they agreed to pay two officers to station outside the club Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.
"That went on for a while but in recent months they asked that we back off Friday and Saturday nights," Webster said. "They were claiming they didn't have any business on those nights. But as you can see on that video, they had a lot of people coming out of there."
Jones said he predicts criminal activity in that area would decrease once Impulse is closed.
If Amores and Parsons appeal their revocation, they would have a hearing before the Zoning Appeals Board. Jones said he would testify that the club has been detrimental to the city and other businesses on Capitol Street share this view.
The state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration is aware of the situation and their officials would attend the hearing, Jones said. ABCA officials temporarily suspended Impulse's liquor license earlier this week.
If the city is successful, Amores and Parsons could take their case to Kanawha County Circuit Court. But Jones doesn't want it to come to that.
"We would hope Ms. Amores would end it on her own and just call it a victory. You made a lot of money now just pack it in," he said. "If not then we are going to pack it in for her."
Reach Travis Crum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5163.