Columbus police have compiled statistics that show a staggering number of officer responses to Club Hiedi Ho, and Police Chief Tony Carleton said those numbers further show how badly the club needs to tighten security.
The statistics, which CPD released to The Dispatch on Tuesday, show that officers produced a total of 28 reports in 2014 from incidents at Club Hiedi Ho. Of those, 14 involved illegal drug possession, four involved simple assault, two involved assaulting police officers and two others involved suspects allegedly discharging firearms in the city limits. Police also executed five search warrants at the club last year.
CPD records also show that the department responded to 237 total 911 calls involving Club Hiedi Ho since April 2011 — including five for reports of shots fired. One of those was a shooting at the club just after midnight on New Year’s, when 30-year-old Billy Kennedy allegedly shot and killed 32-year-old Timothy Barker.
Kennedy, who was working as the club’s disc jockey the night of the shooting, is being held without bond in Lowndes County Adult Detention Facility on a murder charge.
Barker’s death compelled police to compile data that could lead to Carlton championing an ordinance to more strictly regulate all private clubs in the city. That proposed ordinance, Carleton said, would deal primarily with required security measures for private clubs and potentially even force establishments like Hiedi Ho, with high instances of criminal activity, to shape up or shut their doors.
While Carleton acknowledged on Tuesday that Club Hiedi Ho had required more than its share of police presence in recent years, he said he’s not yet ready to move forward with asking for a city ordinance — especially if club owner Larry Golden will better secure the nightclub on his own.
“(The ordinance) is still something we’re considering,” Carleton said. “I just hate to do something broad that affects every (private club) if someone is willing to change. But this is not the ‘average’ amount of calls. We get way more calls to Club Hiedi Ho than we get to anywhere else.”
Golden told The Dispatch last week that he wanted to comply with police and keep his club open. Though he’s only held the lease on the club’s 106 22nd St. South location since 2012, Golden said he has managed club operations for almost 12 years. Columbus-based Wildcat Properties LLC has owned the building that houses the club since 2009.
“I’m going to try to get more security and make things safer,” Golden said. “I want to make my place a better place. I want it to stay open because that’s how I make my living.”
In the immediate term, Golden plans to add a third security guard at the club during operating hours, which are primarily on weekends. Golden said he currently employs two security guards — one dedicated to checking patrons for firearms and other weapons at the entrance and the other supervising the dance floor. On the night of the alleged murder, he said only about 15 patrons remained in the club when the floor guard went home sick, leaving only one security guard.
City fire code allows no more than 250 people in Club Hiedi Ho at once, but Carleton said even three security guards might have a tough time controlling that size of a crowd, especially when the club has a permit to sell beer. The club does not have a license to sell hard liquor and its posted rules do not allow patrons to bring alcohol inside.
“Ideally, with that kind of environment, you really need one (security guard) per 50 people,” Carleton said. “But they may be able to handle it with three.”
Kennedy is also accused in a Nov. 2013 incident where he allegedly shot into an occupied vehicle. He was out on bond from that aggravated assault charge the night Barker died.
Golden said he had employed Kennedy as the club’s disc jockey for about five years but only learned of his criminal past about a year ago. That, coupled with how Golden said Kennedy behaved at the club, had already led the club owner to consider dismissing him.
“We told (Kennedy) that when he was DJ’ing, he needed to stay in the booth and off the dance floor,” Golden said. “But every time we turned around, he was out on the dance floor flashing gang signs. I said we were going to have to get rid of him, but he’s gone and got rid of himself.”
Golden said he “had no idea” how a gun made it into his club the night of the shooting, but he suggested since the club has three doors to gain entrance from the outside — and a security guard only mans one of those — someone might have snuck it in though one of the other two doors.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.