Man charged in weekend Parkville bar stabbing

Club's past violent crime problems raise concerns

February 10, 2011|By Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore County police have charged a 25-year-old man in a Saturday stabbing that injured four people at a Parkville bar — an incident that concerns officers who say the club has had violent crime problems in the past.

Allen Quentin Johnson, of the 1500 block of Lester Morton Court in Baltimore City, faces 18 charges including first-degree assault after police said he stabbed four men outside the Cheers Bar & Grill at 1969 E. Joppa Road.

The stabbing was one of several incidents in recent years that have brought police to Cheers Bar, located behind the Perring Plaza shopping center in Parkville, which overlooks Interstate 695. A number of police reports cite the bar as the backdrop for assaults, disorderly crowds, and one attempted-murder charge in October 2008, but the police calls have died down in the past year.

During a community meeting in Glen Arm Tuesday night, Capt. Thomas J. Busch, the commanding officer of the Parkville Precinct, mentioned the weekend incident as he discussed crime throughout the precinct, which largely included armed robberies and burglaries. He said the bar often causes problems for officers working nights, and that crowds sometimes pour over to a nearby Denny's restaurant.

He credited the bar for enforcing liquor board restrictions over the last year in a later interview, saying "it's been relatively quiet" until this past weekend.

"We're trying to be proactive," he said, to show owners that they do not tolerate violence, so that "it doesn't blow up into anything," he said.

Liquor Board Chairman Charles E. Klein could not be reached, and owners at Cheers did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Juan Barrera, who has been a manager at Denny's for the past year, said the restaurant hasn't had problems with violence inside but that the late-night crowds from the bar can be rowdy.

"I've seen a few fights over there," across the shopping center parking lot, he said, describing closing time as "big crowds" on the weekends. He said Denny's has typically has one officer at the restaurant on weekends.

According to charging documents, a witness told police that Johnson pulled a folding knife from his pants and stabbed Keith Epps in the chest, Billy Bowden Jr. in the shoulder, David Matthews Jr. in the lower back and Baye Campbell in the right middle finger.

The witness told police that Johnson said after the Saturday incident that "a couple people might die tonight 'cause I started hitting everybody.'"

During an interview with a responding police officer, Johnson told an officer he was trying to break up a fight and admitted he carries a knife. At the end of the interview, he said, "How many people did I hawk up tonight?" The officer asked him to define "hawk," to which he replied "stab," according to charging documents dated early Saturday.

Police said they found a folding knife with a 4-inch blade at the scene.

In September 2008, officers were called to the bar, where several hundred people were in the parking lot with more leaving the bar, according to police records. The document says about 15 police cars responded, including officers from the White Marsh and Towson precincts, to break up the commotion.

About a month later, officers were called out for reports of a fight when they found a man suffering from multiple stab wounds.

Police department calls for service from 2007 to 2008 also included first- and second-degree assaults, disturbances, destruction-of-property calls and a shooting that injured four men during an altercation outside the bar in 2007.

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