Early this morning, 27-year-old Ali Ahmed Mohammed smashed the window of Shaw nightclub DC9. Then, police say, a group of DC9 employees chased, beat, and kicked Mohammed to death in an act of "vigilante justice." DC9 owner Bill Spieler and employees Darryl Carter, Reginald Phillips, Evan Preller, and Arthur Zaloca have been charged with second-degree murder in the case, and are currently awaiting arraignment. Also hanging in the balance: The fate of the 9th Street club itself.
D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier said at the press conference today that she plans to shutter the club for up to 96 hours to give police and ABRA officials time to review the evening’s events. Reached by phone, DC9 co-owner Joe Englert was unconcerned with the future of the brick-and-mortar operation. “We’re just really sorry and saddened by the whole thing. We’re confident that the legal system will exonerate them,” Englert told TBD. When asked about long-term plans for the club, Englert responded, “Don’t care, don’t care. We just want these guys to be OK.”
- Blood on the street outside DC9 this morning (Photo: TBD staff)
In an official statement, Englert added that “our staff, families, and friends look forward to our day in court to prove the innocence of our long-time staff.”
As Englert spoke out for his employees, District nightlife website Brightest Young Things jumped to defend one of its scene’s central watering holes. DC9 is “not just another nightclub,” Jason Bond Pratt, President of BYT Media, wrote in a letter to Ward 1 councilmember Jim Graham. “I can't state how strongly DC9's role has been in strengthening DC's nascent reputation as a city of youth culture.”
In light of a violent death outside the club, Pratt urged Graham to consider DC9 as an incubator of new musical talent. “DC9 is, and has always been, one of a couple venues in DC that consistently creates an environment where neighborhood and out of town patrons alike can enjoy new bands before they're discovered by the rest of the world,” Pratt wrote (BYT commenters are reflecting on the club incident here). “For years, all of us at BYT have enjoyed shows, hosted events, and made hundreds of friends in a safe and respectful environment that is much more indicative of DC9 than last night's tragedy would suggest...and it deserves all of our support.”
BYT Editor Svetlana Legetic, who has hosted dozens of events at the club, also voiced support for the venue. "If I go to DC9 it’s not like I’m going to a bar,” Legetic told TBD. “We’ve had so much history. They were always one of the friendliest, nicest venues, in my opinion. No weird rules, just these people that just do a good job....These are not even bouncers in the true sense of the word. It’s just like a guy who checks your ID."
Legetic described club owner Spieler, charged with second-degree murder in the incident, as “a lamb...not a brute.”
“He’s like one of the nicest sweetest most pacified people in the world,” Legetic says. “I can’t even imagine him raising his voice....Not to mention he’s this kind of skinny, inconspicuous kind of man....I literally cannot imagine him losing his temper.”
Matt Dunn, who's DJ'd alongside Spieler at the Liberation Dance Party for the last five years and has known him for two decades since they both worked at the long-gone 15 Minutes club, says DC9 rarely has issues with violence. "It’s an indie rock crowd. It’s just not violent at all," he says. "I can probably count on one hand the number of fights I’ve seen."
"These guys are not the type to get into fights," Dunn says. "I can’t imagine any of those three in a fight or beating on someone. It’s very hard to believe."
Teri Memolo, a local photographer and friend of Spieler's, told TBD that she "can't even believe he would ever do anything even remotely violent.” Memolo described Spieler as "one of her best friends," a former member of "the rave scene" who has "always been really peaceful." Added Memolo: “I can't even imagine he raised a hand to this person."
In the letter to Graham, BYT skirted support of the five men charged with second degree murder in the incident. “What happened last night was, of course, an avoidable tragedy, and one that should and will be prosecuted against whatever individuals (employees or otherwise) perpetrated it,” Pratt wrote. “I'm hoping that throughout this process the actions of those individuals can be properly distinguished from the venue itself, and that the full nature of DC9.” DC9’s fate may rest on how the District of Columbia chooses to “distinguish” between the actions of the club and the alleged actions of its co-owner and staff.
With reporting by Sarah Godfrey and Andrew Beaujon