A Merced police officer was injured and multiple people were arrested early Sunday after “a large melee” at Chandelier’s Hookah Lounge & Smoke Shop on Main Street where police fired at least one round from an “anti riot gun,” the Police Department has confirmed.
The end of the incident was captured on a cell phone video by Anthony Munoz, a 21-year-old Merced man who was working private security at the event.
On Sunday, Capt. Bimley West said officers went into the lounge at 435 W. Main St. looking for a man wanted on a warrant. Details of the warrant were not immediately available.
Munoz was working security at the club. He said the club was hosting a release party for a clothing line. The party was scheduled to run from 10:30 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday. He said police arrived around 12:50 a.m., just as the party was getting ready to break up for the night.
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Munoz’s video shows several simultaneous confrontations between officers and people in the crowd. One officer is seen with a large weapon. That officer, whose name was not immediately confirmed by police, is seen shouting at a crowd of people before he turns and fires a round into the side of a man who appears to be involved in a confrontation with another officer.
Munoz described the round fired by the officer as a “bean bag,” but authorities confirmed the Merced Police Department does not have any bean-bag guns and the weapon that appears to have been used was described as a “sage weapon,” which police say is a non-lethal anti-riot weapon that fires a rubber baton.
Capt. Chris Goodwin said the video does not tell the whole story and captures only the last moments of a complicated chaotic incident. He said he could not comment further on the scene captured in the video until the investigation concludes.
Munoz said the incident started when officers came in through the back patio area. He said officers pulled their guns, but left them pointed down and didn’t point them at any person. They searched a bathroom at least three times and were moving around the club, but said nobody knew what the officers were doing or why.
“There was a confrontation and a citizen assaulted the officer and (the officer) had to be taken to the hospital,” West said. The officer’s name was not released Sunday. Goodwin said the officer was released from the hospital early Sunday, but likely will out on medical leave for a time.
Police described the officer as “seriously injured.”
West said a lounge patron “became very upset” that officers were in the club “looking for people.”
Munoz said it appeared to him that officers were “just in there looking around. It didn’t look like they were looking for a person, to me.”
“They went up to this one African American dude who was dancing with someone. He was just dancing with someone and I don’t know if someone bumped (the officers) of what, but (the officer) put his hands on the African American guy and that provoked everybody to rush over and see what was going on,” Munoz said.
Goodwin said the officers, which numbered about three or four, spotted the man they were looking for and went to make the arrest.
“That’s when the officer was blind-sided, punched in the face,” Goodwin said. “Several people punched officers and our guys became surrounded by the crowd.”
The man police were looking for was not captured and police still were searching for him Sunday. His name was not released.
Numerous Merced officers then came to the club to assist and “multiple people, at least five or more, had to be arrested,” West said.
All five people arrested at the scene were Bay Area residents, according to police.
At least two people were examined medically before they were booked into jail, but there were no other serious injuries, Goodwin said.
“The officers have a right to be there and to look for people wanted (on warrants) and (the patrons) got out of hand,” West said.
Munoz said officers prevented people from leaving and many in the crowd were upset.
Club owner Amrik Singh said he heard loud shots, saw a man bleeding from his head and saw blood on the floor of the lounge after the incident. He didn’t see what happened in the lounge area.
Two policemen came in first, Singh said, then he saw about half a dozen more come in shortly after. Officers told him to turn the lights on, he said.
“I turned the lights on then they stopped the party,” Singh said.
Both Singh and Munoz said police never explained what they were doing at the club.
“To me, in my mind, this was totally unnecessary. It didn’t have to happen like that,” Munoz said. “If they were looking for somebody, why not turn the lights on and tell everyone what’s going on. Stop the party real quick and look for a person.”
He said he didn’t see any patrons assaulting police officers. He too said his video doesn’t tell the whole story.
“Everything happened so fast and it was just all chaos going on and the cops never told anyone what was happening,” Munoz said. “Everyone was just scared, just confused and paranoid because nobody knew what was going on and they left without explaining anything to anybody.”
Goodwin said the idea officers would stop a large club party to look for one person “is not realistic.”
“That’s not a tactic we would use,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin said “there are numerous investigation going on right now” and officers are reviewing the video as well as the body-camera footage captured by their officers.
“We have the internal, use-of-force, investigation as well as the criminal investigation going on to determine whether anyone else was involved,” Goodwin said.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482
Those arrested were:
1. Isa Bey, 22, of Oakland, on suspicion of battery on a peace officer causing injury
2. Ciasonne Olajuwon Ratto-Foster, 20, of Richmond, on suspicion of assault on a peace officer, obstructing police
3. Nedir Bey, 20, of Oakland, on suspicion of battery on a peace officer causing injury, obstructing police
4. Yakub Bey, 24, Oakland, on suspicion of obstructing police
5. Majied Jaleel Bey, 21, Oakland, on suspicion of obstructing police
Source: Merced Police Department
Merced Police are asking anyone with any information regarding this crime to contact Capt. Goodwin at 209-385-6913 or 209-385-6288 or the Merced Police Department Tipster Line at 209-385-4725. The public can send information via anonymous text messages to police department by dialing “TIP411” (847411) and including the word “Comvip” as the “keyword” in the text message.