08 January 2016

Losing a Brother to a felon with a knife & and the realities of violence

Tom Malenski
Yesterday I did something that I have been able to avoid for my entire professional career.  I attended the sentencing of a man who murdered someone I considered a Brother, and gave a victims impact statement.

You have heard me talk about all situations involving a setting/environment, actors, and a scene.  The following is based on evidence given in open court, and this said in the news that I could cooberate with people that I trust.  The only exception being a conversation I had with one of the victims.

Scene/Environment-  The Ottobar located at 2549 N Howard Street Baltimore MD.  The Ottobar is well known in the Baltimore/DC area as a venue for punk rock music.  As you walk in the Ottobar, if you go to the right you will walk past the stage and pit until you get to a few steps leading to the downstairs bar.  If you walk in and go straight up the stairs it leads to the upstairs bar complete with two pool tables.  The upstairs is basically just a neighborhood bar.


Tom Malenski, 35, long time bouncer at the Ottobar
Marty Clay, long time bouncer at the Ottobar
Nicholas Heath, 32 on parole for burglary, possession of a handgun

Scenario- On Fridday 26SEP14 Tom was off duty and had attended a show downstairs before heading upstairs to hang out.  Tom had been sober since 2002.  Marty had worked the downstairs show but had been "cut" from the shift due to low attendance.  Marty too when upstairs to hang out.  At some point a friend of Heath's made some inappropriate comments to a female and had been advised by staff to stop.  After another complaint was made to staff the individual was told that he had to leave.  This individual had been a problem before and was familiar to both Tom and Marty, he also know that they were bouncers.  Tom and Marty walked the subject out with little to no physical contact.  As they did, Heath remained at the bar.  Once outside the subject refused to leave the property and Tom and Marty chased him south on Howard St.  As this was occurring, surveillance shows him calmly paying for his drink, folding his coat neatly and laying it over his left forearm, before heading down the steps to exit.

While walking down the steps, surveillance shows him removing a folding knife from his right pocket.  The knife was previously shown clipped to his pocket while at the bar.  Once exiting the bar, instead of turning right to walk down the alley to where his vehicle was parked, Heath instead turned left after seeing Tom and Marty and walked toward them.  According to Marty, Heath approached them without saying anything or taking any sort of an aggressive stance.  Heath, concealing the blade with the jacket on his left arm, moved into contact distance and using an angle #1 attack (traveling diagonally from high right to low left) slashes the left side of Marty's face.   To further evidence that Heath showed minimal pre-attack indicators, Marty says that he thought he had been punched, and stepped back to put up his "dukes", this indicates that nothing about Heath's actions before the actual attack gave him reason to even have his hands up.  Marty stated that in this split second he realized something was wrong because his "face was not moving".  Also in this split second Tom steeped in front of Marty and was also cut by Heath using an Angle #1(traveling diagonally from high right to low left).  This cut slashed the left side of Tom's throat.  As Tom lay mortally wounded, Heath fled the scene.

Spyderco Civilian
Heath was arrested the next day in Howard County MD and was found to be carrying a 8 Ball of Cocaine.  The knife used, as Spyderco Civlian was found inside the fireplace at the residence.

On 09DEC15 the jury found his self defense story credible and only found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Tom's murder, and guilty of 2nd degree assault in Marty's case.

On the day of the verdict Heath's attorney Margret Mead in a article in the Baltimore Sun said the following-

Nicholas Heath
" Heath feared Malenski and the other employee were going to attack him, so he swung his knife to ward them off. He used a curved knife that's designed to wound, but not kill"

During my victims impact statement after identifying myself as a retired Maryland police officer and being an edged weapons instructor, I wanted to comment on Mead's statement but not anger the judge.  To get my point across to the judge I simply said "During an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Ms Mead stated that the knife her client used was designed to wound, but not kill.  Now we know that is obviously not the case."

I believe that a much bigger point should have been made out of the knife used, a Spyderco Civilian.  A quote from Spyderco's website states the following. 

 "Because of its distinctly specialized features it is not intended or designed for general utility or everyday use"

Everyone familiar with the edged weapon community knows that the Civilian was designed as a deadly force option for DEA agents who while working undercover could not carry a firearm. 

During both the trial and at sentencing Heath's attorney made reference to him being trained in martial arts, most specifically Brazilian Ju Jitsu.  These facts combined with the fact that he had previously been charged with the carrying of a handgun, lead me to believe that he picked out and carried that knife specifically due to its design and intended purpose.

During sentencing it was quite apparent that Judge John Howard, who also presided over the trial, believed that the jury had dropped the ball with their verdict and was going to do whatever he could do to hand out some justice.  Showing his dedication to justice, the judge spoke about going to the Ottobar and crime scene the night before the sentencing to experience it for himself.

Judge Howard had a lot to say during is the sentencing (read the full story here).  To me the highlights of which were that Heath instead of going to his vehicle, chose to walk towards Tom and Marty.  Thus showing his intent for a confrontation to occur.  Also the Judge said he did not understand while someone with a Brazilian Ju Jitus background would be so quick to use a knife to "protect themselves".

Judge Howard sentenced Heath to the longest possible sentence afforded to him by the State of Maryland, 10 years for Tom's murder and 10 years for the assault on Marty to run consecutively.  Due to his convictions Maryland State Parole and Probation will also be adding some time for his to serve at the end of those sentences.

Takeaways from an MCS standpoint-  Marty and Tom's standpoint- a man carrying his jacket folded over his arm could be a possible pre-assault indicator depending on the circumstances.  Both of these guys had grown up rough in the streets and punk scene in Baltimore even before becoming bouncers.  They were in no shape or form strangers to violence.  You need to stay aware and get your hands above your waist if anyone comes into contact distance with you.  As evidenced at least by Marty, confirming what we teach, you will not see the blade before it cuts/stabs you.  If your training predicated on seeing the blade it could cost you your life.  Also confirming what we teach is that the most probable first attack will be an Angle #1 slash.  Train for all the fancy stuff after you are able to defend against this in the most disadvantaged positions.

From Heath's standpoint- even if there is perceived wrong doing, once the "threat" to you is gone, if you press a confrontation, especially by bypassing your out, you will be held accountable.  Whether self admitted or found during electronic discovery, your training can be called into question in court.  If you are going to train, be sure that it it recent, relevant, and REALISTIC.

Tom's cold blooded murder and Marty's vicious assault have proven to me that here at MCS we are on the right track when it comes to training for the reality of a deadly confrontation.

All MCS training is dedicated to the memory of my Brother Tom, and healing both physically and mentally of my Brother Marty.

To all my Brother and Sister bouncers out there, stay alert/stay alive, and God Bless.- George


No comments:

Post a Comment