John Montoya, owner of The District Bar and Grill, is wearing sunglasses to cover his black eye and a cut just over his brow. He got the injury, including scrapes on his arms, Friday, July 7, in a scuffle with police that resulted in the arrest of Montoya, his fiancée Camille Taylor and local musician and Alibi contributor Jenny Gamble.
Here's how the story goes. An officer and a police service aid were in the alley by The District towing vehicles that were obstructing access to Fourth Street businesses, says Capt. Ron Paiz of the Valley Area Command, which oversees Downtown. According to a criminal complaint filed with Metro Court, Montoya aggressively approached the officers.
Montoya says he was in a meeting with the Downtown Coalition, a group of business owners formed to cope with stiffened regulations and increased police presence in the area, when he got the call Friday night. A car bearing city emblems had driven down the alley near his business and hit a parked van belonging to Alex and the Rockets, a band that was unloading equipment into his bar to set up for the evening, he says. Montoya also says the car had taken out the van's rearview mirror and crumpled the utility boxes that serve his building before driving away.
Montoya says he approached the officer to tell him the band had a right to load and unload equipment and that there should be “no towing until we get a police report” for the damage to the car and the utility box. The argument escalated, according to the complaint, and when Montoya attempted to walk away, he was tackled by two officers. “Once I was already down, they picked up my head by my hair and shoved my head into the concrete,” Montoya says.
Taylor went out to see what was going on and discovered Montoya covered in blood, she says. Gamble, who had seen some of the activity from the patio of the Fourth Street Pub nearby, began taking photos as Montoya was cuffed and taken to the police car. The complaint says Gamble and Taylor interfered with the investigation by taking pictures and talking to Montoya, who was in custody. Gamble and Taylor were arrested around 11:30 p.m, according to the complaint.
Paiz says he has no problem with people taking pictures as long as they don't interfere with the investigation. “Anybody can take pictures, but you can't engage in the event itself,” he says. “Take pictures. Take video. Take whatever you want.” He adds that business owners were warned by the Downtown Action Team in a memo sent out June 30 that cars parked in the alley were going to be towed. The department has been receiving a high volume of calls regarding the alley for months, often because of “drunks passed out in there,” Paiz says. It's been difficult to get rescue vehicles and equipment in and out of the alley, he says.
Taylor says she and Montoya will be speaking with their lawyer before deciding whether to proceed with a lawsuit.