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Monday, March 29, 2010

Weekend homicide at Plainfield's BUF raises troubling questions

Plainfield's BUF is a popular rental space for events.

Hours before Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs was to be fêted at a brunch on the same premises, a guest at an event at the BUF/HHS complex on Saturday evening died from stab wounds received in a fight. A second victim was taken to RWJ hospital, where he was listed in critical condition Sunday.

I posted a 'BREAKING' brief on CLIPS about 1:00 PM Sunday, and the Ledger (here) and Courier (here) posted online stories later in the day.

Turns out there was more going on overnight Saturday: a reader who listens to the police scanner reports there was also a brawl at the Heard One complex on Church Street at about 2:00 AM, as well as at other locations, and that North Plainfield and South Plainfield police had to assist as Plainfield police were overwhelmed with the rash of incidents.

I also have been told that an off-duty Plainfield police officer attending the event at BUF was sucker-punched in a SEPARATE incident at BUF that evening, resulting in a serious eye injury (don't know if this is the 'unidentified person' in the Ledger/Courier stories).

With many questions and few answers, issues began to mount --
  • What was the nature of the event at BUF? A private party? Or an event to which tickets were sold?

  • Was booze being served at the BUF event? If so, was a liquor permit for the event issued by the city?

  • Had the sponsor of the event obtained an event permit from the City? Had BUF required proof of a bona fide permit?

  • If booze was being served, why were no off-duty police hired to provide security for the event?

  • If, as I am told, several fights had broken out at the BUF event, why was the party not shut down or police not summoned before the fatal stabbing?
Coming less than a year after an incident at the YWCA where a 'Sweet Sixteen' party got out of control, resulting in a melée involving hundreds in which a police officer was injured (see here; and here), this weekend's homicide should prompt a look at problems with these large-scale events.

In the YWCA incident, off-duty police were being used for security, but the number of youths inside and outside the building were more than could be controlled when a fight broke out, resulting in the

At the time, Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig admitted the police 'dropped the ball to an extent' when assigning off-duty officers to the party. It turned out that no permit for the party had been issued by City Hall.

And there's the rub.

The YWCA appears to have taken the word of the organizer that a permit had been issued, when in fact none was. If it turns out there was no permit for Saturday's event at BUF, the question becomes why not? And why would BUF permit use of the premises without one?

Perhaps it is time for the Council to look into whether venue owners and operators should responsible for keeping records of their event rentals, with copies of city-issued permits to be kept on file. Such owners/operators could then be held liable if trouble ensues, perhaps facing substantial fines (say $1,000) for failure to comply, or even suspension of their ability to rent the premises.

It could be a life-saving change in the way these events are handled.

And who couldn't be for that, after this past weekend's tragedy?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Oh Dan
If you know someome in the city you can get a permit like that.
Like the after hours spot at 4th and arlington friend of coucilman approved

Anonymous said...

Thousand dollar is a drop in the bucket thay should be required to post a substancial bond and insurance which require Police Security not Thugs R Us security

Anonymous said...

From someone that was there,, the cop was not sucker punched, next time he will not be as .... and start a fight he can't finish... and no adult beverages were being sold at the event.... you only need security at a function if its not a dress code, (which a few did break, but not enough to say this was an issue). the fight inside was quelled in less than 1 minute, so it was no need to shut down the party,, I mean IT WAS A COP FIGHTING!! not Party goers!!!

Anonymous said...

Why were there no off duty police officers assigned to this event. Every time there is a party at the Heard One Complex there has to be minimun of 2 oficers present or the permit will not go through. This is not the first time that the city allowed a party at the BUF with 300+ in attendance (BYOB)with no police sercurity. It's a shame that somebody had to pay with their life before this question are raised. May the victim of this careless act "REST IN PEACE" the City which issued the permit without police security, BUF for allowing the party without sercurity and the persons who gave this party without the consideration of hiring sercurity for their supporters. All should be held legally responsible, now another Mother has to bury her child.

Anonymous said...

Security issue... the incident happen outside the party in the parking lot across the street from the BUF,,Who said the person had the knife inside the party? but instead had it in his/her car and used it then? Security or not would not of stopped what happen. R.I.P Black,..., Would the jets be held at faught if a fight broke out in the parking lot at the Sheraton? you can look to blame, but pointing at the Buf or the promotors are not the angle. again, dress code you do not need security,, even at the Heard one.. trust me on this,,, no Dress code, you need security

Anonymous said...

Nothing but aminals!

Anonymous said...

First things first! My Prayers go out to the sole that was taken in this act of violence and also to the family and loved ones of the victim. Now this being said, lets put some truth on the table. If you think throwing money at the problem (i.e. fining people, or having substantial bond/insurance)is the solution, then you are part of the problem. What happened at the BUF also happens at residential birthday party, picnics, baby showers, house warming, and family reunion just to mention a few. Are we to get permits and fines for them as well? There is no one solution to this problem because it has been allowed to go on almost unnoticed just like discarding paper/garbage on the ground (and we see the results of that). Within some of our own households we raise, love, feed, and protect some of those whom we know are headed in a direction of hurting themselves or someone else and we do nothing until it hits home. Home. Now theres a good place to start resolving tomorrows problems. You can't blame a Mayor for what you allow to go on in your home and then into the public. Some communities that appear not to have this uncontrollable problem with violence seem to pay more attention to their before they become adults. Now the key word he is SOME. I am in no way speaking about all the households or parents in the City of Plainfield because we all know that Plainfield has many outstanding homes and parents. However; even 10% of bad can spoil a gallon of milk. I know that its not always easy but lets all start with something small, where we can all make a difference. Lets start with ourselves. :-)

Respectfully submitted,

P.S. Please excuse and typeos.

Anonymous said...

South Plainfield and North Plainfield were called to help the Plainfield Police? An officer attending a party was injured. Someone got killed and another stabbed. Hundreds of people at these parties to be controlled by who? Two off duty cops. While all of this was going on, was the rest of Plainfield safe? Does anyone other then the party promoters make money out of this? Or, are we the taxpayers stuck with the police bill. This sounds like mismanagement at some level that this could be allowed to happen on a weekly basis.

Anonymous said...

Lets to a comparison. This happened at a club on Front Street in Dunellen. Cops from surrounding towns were called to quell a melee. People got injured. The club was closed and sold. This happened in Scotch Plains, fight broke out, other towns had to be called to quell the melee. Someone got killed. Club was closed, tore down, and is now an Auto Zone. This happens in Plainfield, again and again and again. fight, other towns are called, someone gets killed, cops get hurt, club promoters are placing flyers on cars during the melee for next week. "If you though last week was wild, come party with us next week when we will try and top the number murdered and hospitalized! It's gonna be a pary yall here in Plainfield, NJ"

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Lenny Cathcart throws the party every year. He's connected to city council. He gets a pass.

Anonymous said...

I'm told there was a gun in the car the these scumbags were caught in. This could have been a lot worse that what it was.

Good job Plainfeld PD! I still find it irresponsible that the city would want you to take a pay cut or furlough days. You are paid far too little for what you do and we need many more than what we have.