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Lethal D.C. outburst spurs call for off-duty police presence at ‘after-hours’ events

By Theola Labbé-DeBose,

D.C. Council member Jack Evans plans to introduce legislation next week that would require establishments offering “after-hours” entertainment to hire off-duty police officers to patrol outside, after one man was killed and five people were injured early Sunday outside a Dupont Circle restaurant.

Evans said he has not settled on a definition of “after-hours” or decided whether to introduce the bill as emergency legislation, which, if passed, would go into effect immediately for 90 days. But he said he wants to prevent incidents like the one that took place outside Heritage India on Connecticut Avenue NW, with violence “spilling into the street.”

“People cannot leave these establishments at 3 a.m. and be loud and getting into fights,” said Evans (D-Ward 2). “That’s not tolerable behavior.”

Off-duty officers already patrol outside businesses in Georgetown and Adams Morgan, which pay for the coverage individually or in groups, Evans said. The legislation would make that voluntary business practice mandatory throughout the city.

Jhonte Coleman, 34, of Suitland was fatally shot outside Heritage India, in the 1300 block of Connecticut Avenue NW, about 2:45 a.m. Sunday. Witnesses said that after a fight broke out inside the restaurant, management forced everyone out. But the violence continued, police said, and Coleman and two other people were shot and three people were stabbed.

Homicide detectives continue to investigate. Two police sources with knowledge of the case said investigators were still unsure what caused the fight.

Evans, who serves on the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary and whose ward includes Dupont Circle, said he plans to introduce the measure at the council’s Dec. 6 legislative meeting.

“Imagine if they ejected everybody and they had had 10 police officers outside” Heritage India, Evans said. “Would it have made a difference? I don’t know, but it might have.”

In addition to its Dupont Circle location, Heritage India has a restaurant at 2400 Wisconsin Ave. NW. The business is better known for wedding receptions and banquets for foreign dignitaries than for club parties.

The restaurant released a statement on its Web site Tuesday, the first time it addressed the incident publicly. The statement said the restaurant had a private contract with an outside entertainment company that hosted a party Saturday night.

Two people who started to fight were escorted out of the restaurant by security, the statement said. “With tension remaining in the venue, management decided to shut down the event immediately. Music was turned off, lights were turned on and guests were asked to leave,” the statement said.

The restaurant was empty except for security officers, the event promoters and the restaurant staff, according to the statement.

Someone outside said there was a stabbing, according to the statement, and the security staff called 911. The security staff brought a stabbing victim — who was leaning against the main door of the restaurant — inside for medical assistance, the statement said. “The stabbing did not occur inside Heritage India,” the statement said.

The statement did not name the event promoter. A YouTube video commercial by Mel Productions advertised a Nov. 26 “Black Out” party at Heritage India on Connecticut Avenue NW and promised “free shots for ladies all night.”

Three people listed as party hosts on a Mel Productions flier did not respond to requests for comment.

Heritage India’s Dupont Circle location remained closed Tuesday. There was no clear timetable for its reopening.

“Heritage India is reviewing its contracting procedures for private events and is prepared to participate in a constructive dialog with police and city officials to promote a safe, hospitable environment for nightlife activities,” the restaurant’s statement said.

Staff writers Fritz Hahn and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.

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