Kevin Bost was celebrating a friend’s 30th birthday at Heritage India in Dupont Circle early Sunday morning when a fight broke out inside and police forced everyone out.
Bost, 32, said he watched in shock as people continued to kick and stomp each other on the sidewalk in the 1300 block of Connecticut Ave NW. He crossed the street with his childhood friend, Jhonte Coleman, and another person to get away from the violence. They searched frantically for the fourth person who rode with them in Coleman’s car, so they could drive back to Suitland.
All of a sudden, a man Bost could describe to police only as tall looked at him and shouted, “Oh, you’re with them.” Bost said the next thing he saw was the man pull a pistol from his waistband.
“I started to run, and I hear the shots, ‘boom, boom.’ I heard at least four of them, and I felt one hit me in the leg,” Bost said Sunday in a phone interview from his home, where he was recovering from his gunshot wounds and a sprained ankle.
Bost said he turned back and saw Coleman in the middle of Connecticut Avenue: “He looked real bad, I knew he couldn’t get up.”
Police said Coleman, 34, died at a hospital from gunshot wounds. Five other people were injured in the violence, and police were investigating what sparked the mayhem.
Coleman, Bost and another man were shot about 2:45 a.m. outside Heritage India after several patrons involved in the fight inside spilled out onto the sidewalk, police said. Three people also were stabbed, and police found one of the stabbing victims inside the establishment. All of the victims live in Maryland, police said.
For a little more than a year, Coleman worked as a retail porter for Washington Convention Center caterer Centerplate/NBSE, setting up and replenishing food items at concession stands, said Lisa Kerr, the company’s human resources director.
Kerr’s voice cracked Sunday as she described him as a hard-working employee who was extremely polite and disciplined. “We lost a very valuable team player. He will be missed,” she said.
As dedicated as he was to his job, his family came first. Kerr said. Coleman had a daughter about 3 or 4 years old, Bost said.
“When we had events where you had to work late, he would say that he had to make babysitting arrangements, or he might say that he couldn’t stay late because he had to pick up his daughter,” Kerr said.
Heritage India restaurant, where the incident began, is just south of Dupont Circle. Inside, large framed portraits of 18th-century Indian generals flank the wall overlooking the bar, and a statue of a Buddha sits along one wall.
Some downtown restaurants have licenses that allow them to offer late-night entertainment after dinner hours.
Bost said he had been to Heritage for an event for his wife’s class reunion and that people were dressed up. He said the vibe Saturday night was still that of a relaxed lounge, but people wore sneakers and jeans — casual attire that many clubs screen out at the door. The DJ spun hip-hop and R&B music, Bost said, and there was tight security to get in. “Males and females were patted down,” he said.
On Sunday afternoon, residents and visitors milled by a large red sign taped to the front door of Heritage — which should have been open for brunch — saying that it was closed. Some of them snapped pictures of the notice with camera phones. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier exercised emergency powers to close the restaurant as of 6 a.m. Sunday because “continued operation of this establishment would present an imminent danger to the health, safety and welfare of the public,” the notice read.
An employee who was at Heritage on Sunday declined to comment and said that the owner was not available. The restaurant Web site lists another Heritage location in Glover Park.
Bost, who works as an equipment operator for the D.C. Department of Public Works, said he rarely goes out to clubs anymore because he prefers to be at home with his wife and five children. But since Bost’s friend helped him celebrate his own 30th birthday a few years ago, he decided to go out.
“We had nothing to do with the altercation,” Bost said. “I don’t even know why this guy started shooting at me.”
Were you at Heritage India in Dupont Circle on Saturday night when the violence broke out? Washington Post reporter Theola Labbé-DeBose wants to know what you saw or heard. Contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org or @theolita10
Staff writers Fritz Hahn and Martin Weil contributed to this report.
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