The owner of the Thorny Devil nightclub said exterior security cameras filmed the altercation and aftermath that resulted in the death of a 26-year-old man in the early morning hours of Feb. 14.
John Scott-Pearse said cameras from the street-level Robinson Hall, which he also owns and which sits beneath the Thorny Devil, show a man lying on the ground while a crowd turns on another man.
Reports state the man’s name is Aaron Ferkranus.
Police responded to the disturbance at about 2:50 a.m. Two men, one 29 years old, the other 26, were taken to hospital by paramedics.
The older man was treated and released, but the younger man, who sustained critical injuries and was in medical distress when police arrived, died in the evening of Feb. 15.
The incident is still under investigation by London police, but the Special Investigations Unit has invoked its mandate and is also now investigating the case.
The SIU is an arm’s-length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.
After viewing the footage, Scott-Pearse gave a chronology of the series of events that led to the man’s death.
“Our staff was made aware of an altercation unfolding on Market Lane a bit before 3 a.m. Saturday morning. They went outside to find one man unconscious on the ground and another being attacked by a group. My staff separated the group from the man they were attacking. This individual proceeded to fight my staff.”
Scott-Pearse said the man the crowd had been attacking had something to do with the unconscious man on the ground.
“Police and an ambulance (were) called. When the police arrived the man on the ground was handcuffed. When he was let up it was clear that he was experiencing a medical emergency.”
He said security cameras caught what appeared to be a single punch, rather than an elongated fight, that knocked the victim unconscious.
Concerned that some people on social media are blaming brutal tactics by security staff from the Robinson Hall for the death, Scott-Pearse said they’re well trained and must meet annual provincial standards.
“Today all security staff are screened, trained, tested and licensed by the provincial government. They are subject to annual relicensing. Robinson Hall can only get guards from this pool of people. Venues such as ours no longer train their guards.”
He added the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has ruled that any incidents that occur directly outside a club’s doors are the club’s responsibility.
“There is no turning our heads and ignoring the situation. It would have be illegal for our security staff to disregard what they knew to be going on out on Talbot St,” Scott-Pearse said.
He stressed it's the first punch itself that must be stopped before it's ever thrown.
"Initiating a violent altercation, like (this one), invites a whole menu of outcomes. Most of them, bad. These people are playing a numbers game with their safety, with the safety of the people they attack and also with the safety of the security people who must get involved. There is no way, once these things start, to 100-percent guarantee the safety of anyone involved. Things happen which nobody intended. Events can easily spiral out of control."