Congress Street is the go-to spot for the party set, drawing bachelorette parties, college crowds, Army Rangers, and tourists looking for a good time. But a series of altercations over the past three months — reveals how quickly — and sometimes, deadly — the mix of alcohol and guns can get.
The most recent incident, described in a Georgia Bureau of Investigation press release, revealed that two off-duty Savannah Police Department officers were working security at the Congress Street Social Club, 411 W. Congress St., when, at around 2:57 a.m. on March 26, they found a man holding a handgun in front of Boomys Restaurant and Bar next door at 409 W. Congress St.
A verbal argument between the man, Robert Gadson, 35, and a Boomys bouncer devolved into a physical one. Gadson pulled a handgun. When officers approached Gadson, they “gave verbal commands for him to drop his weapon, at which point he pointed it toward the officers.”
An exchange of gunfire between the officers and Gadson occurred that resulted in Gadson being shot. The officers administered first aid and Gadson was taken to a local hospital in Savannah where he died three days later.
A handgun was recovered at the scene.
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Per protocol in all officer-involved shootings, SPD passed the case to the GBI to investigate. Once complete, the case file will be given to the Eastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for review.
Gadson’s is the second death in the past two months on Congress Street.
At around 3 a.m. on Feb. 6, SPD officers were patrolling Congress and Whitaker streets when they heard gunfire. Running toward the sound, they found Markieth Wright, 22, suffering from a life-threatening gunshot wound at the intersection of Congress and Drayton streets.
Wright was transported to the hospital where he later died. The case remains under investigation.
According to a review of SPD police reports from the beginning of the year, multiple incidents have occurred on Congress Street. The clubs at the nexus of many of these altercations, however, refused to comment for this article.
On Jan. 16, a man got into an argument with the bouncers at Club 51 Degrees, 121 W. Congress St., saying he was going to stab them with the pens in his pocket. Determining he had mental health issues, SPD officers later transported the man to Memorial Health University Medical Center for evaluation.
On Feb. 8, a 24-year-old bouncer at Congress Street Social Club told two men, who appeared “extremely intoxicated,” they would no longer be served. Angry, one of the men, Jordan Hunter, 40, began shouting obscenities at the bouncer. The bouncer told the men to leave and began to escort them out of the bar. Hunter pulled away from the bouncer, but the bouncer pushed him out of the bar.
Hunter whipped a black handgun from his waistband with his right hand, but the gun slipped and fell to the ground.
The bouncer yelled, «Gun!» Hunter snatched his firearm, placed it back into his waistband and hurried west on Congress Street.
The other man, Benton Boyd, who was listed in the police report as a witness, left his credit card at the bar, allowing the manager of Social Club to later print out the receipts of the drinks Hunter had ordered during the night, which identified the two men.
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On Feb. 25, three “heavily-intoxicated” people — two men and one woman — were banned from the Rail Pub, 405 W. Congress St., after getting into a fight. SPD handcuffed and charged members of the group with multiple crimes, including disorderly conduct, criminal trespassing and obstruction of an officer after “berating” the officer and “getting aggressive.”
On March 17, one man was unable to rally after he was sucker-punched by another patron he had pulled out of his seat at the bar.The altercation was triggered when the man pulled another man, who was sitting next to a woman, out of his seat at the bar. They began to fight before it was broken up by other bar-goers.
When speaking to an SPD officer at 8:45 p.m., the man, who had head injuries, started vomiting on the ground. The man refused to press charges and left when the officers were compiling the video.
About two hours later on the same day, more havoc ensued.
At 11:45 p.m., security Boomys removed an “extremely intoxicated” man from the bar. When doing so, the man’s wife, also “extremely intoxicated,” began to fight security and another woman. She fell to the ground, nose bleeding, when an SPD officer arrived at the scene.
While trying to pull herself up, she grabbed her husband by the shoulders, which caused him to fall to the ground. An SPD officer attempted to escort the woman to emergency medical technicians, but the woman swung at the officer’s face, grazing her cheek.
Multiple officers wrestled the wife to the ground. The wife punched the officer again and kicked a man, who was working security at Boomys that night, and was trying to help the officers detain her.
On March 20, at around 2:59 am, last call on the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, partiers poured into the street. Fights ensued, and an SPD officer was dispatched to the area. That was when the officer spotted a man and woman trading barbs across the street.
A witness told the officer that the man had been verbally aggressive with the woman and drew back his right fist in a fighting stance like he was going to hit her, but staff at the Rail Pub separated them and escorted the man out of the bar.
According to the police report, the man and woman share a child together and have had previous domestic violence incidents. Later, officers found the man to have had a superior court warrant out for his arrest. They added another warrant, this time stemming from the March 20 incident, for aggravated stalking.
Theft, drugs and other crimes
Other crimes reported on Congress Street include an off-duty SPD officer working security for Social Club finding a small clear baggy holding 1.1 grams of cocaine. A missing purse. Abandoned credit cards. Missing ID’s. Stolen phones. One woman working at Boomys also claimed that in mid-January a homeless man stole $50 from the bar.
Drew Favakeh is the public safety and public health reporter for Savannah Morning News. You can reach him at AFavakeh@savannahnow.com.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Savannah’s Congress Street plagued with gun violence, fights