Man accused of pulling gun on bar bouncers goes to trial
By Tony Lystra / The Daily News
The son of a retired Longview police captain went on trial Wednesday for allegedly pulling a gun on three bouncers in the alley behind Kesler's Bar and Grill in downtown Longview.
Brian Adam Barnd-Spjut, 29, of Longview, faces four counts of second-degree assault with a firearm.
Deputy prosecutor Amie Hunt said Wednesday that on the night of March 28 Barnd-Spjut refused to pay the bar's $5 cover charge and refused to leave. She said he brandished an semi-automatic handgun at three bouncers and a manager after they forced him down a hallway and pushed him into the bar's back alley.
Hunt said Barnd-Spjut pulled the trigger repeatedly, but the gun wasn't loaded.
Longview defense attorney Duane Crandall, who has a reputation for representing clients in self-defense cases, claims his client knew Kesler's was a dangerous place where bouncers have been known to behave like thugs. Crandall said Barnd-Spjut reluctantly stopped by to visit with manager Brandon Kesler, whose father Leo Kesler Jr., owns the bar. Barnd-Spjut, who has a concealed weapons permit, pulled the gun in self defense, only after he was set upon by the security staff, Crandall said.
In 2006, the Longview Police Department singled out Kesler's, saying officers were repeatedly called there following outbreaks of violence. Crandall said Barnd-Spjut had spoken with his father, retired Longview police Capt. Don Barnd, about how "dangerous" Kesler's was becoming, and the elder Barnd encouraged his son to stay away from the bar.
Barnd-Spjut had heard stories about the bar's bouncers, some of whom weren't officially on the payroll, Crandall said. "Not just the clientele, but the bouncers liked to fight," he told the jury. "The bouncers liked to beat people up."
A series of grainy security videos played in court Wednesday purportedly show Barnd-Spjut talking with bouncers in the nightclub. Barnd-Spjut and two bouncers are walking toward a hallway leading to the back of the club when a scuffle breaks out. Barnd-Spjut appears to stiffen, then bouncers seize him and force him down the hallway. A doorman joins the fray, and a figure identified by prosecutors as Brandon Kesler rushes from the kitchen.
In the alley, Barnd-Spjut appears to whip a handgun from his waistband and brandish it for about three seconds before tucking it away again. The man thought to be Kesler is seen waving him off.
Bouncer Phillip Church testified that Barnd-Spjut aimed the gun at his stomach. Another bouncer, Dominador Pomaikai Daniel, who is 6-foot-five and 340 pounds, said he took cover just inside the club's door. Daniel, who is of Pacific Island descent, said Barnd-Spjut shouted a racial slur as he waved the gun and appeared to be calling for him to come back into the alley.
Barnd-Spjut got back into his truck and rode with his friends and girlfriend over to the Silver Star, another downtown Longview bar. He was arrested at gunpoint in the bar's parking lot a short time later by roughly a dozen police officers from throughout the county who flooded to the scene.
The defense has not disputed that the man brandishing the gun in the video is Barnd-Spjut.
Brandon Kesler was brought to court Wednesday after being arrested Tuesday evening on a material witness warrant. Kesler, who was accompanied by a corrections officer, was shown the security video of the incident, but said he could not verify that he was one of the men in the video.
He also said he can't recall exactly what transpired the night of the incident. Kesler, who said he was testifying against his will, also declined to identify Barnd-Spjut as the man who pointed the gun at him.
"You don't remember a single thing of having a gun pointed at you?" asked Hunt, the deputy prosecutor.
"It was a long time ago," Kesler said, adding that he'd been taking pain killers last March following a car wreck.
A police report said Kesler considered Barnd-Spjut a friend, and Longview police officer Ken Hardy testified Wednesday that the pair spoke on the phone shortly after police arrived at Kesler's.
Hardy said he heard Kesler tell Barnd-Spjut: "You just pulled a gun on me. I almost crapped my pants. I thought I was going to get shot."
Editor's note (Jan. 14): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the defendant, Brian Adam Barnd-Spjut, is accused of brandishing an automatic handgun at Kesler's. The weapon in question was a semi-automatic handgun.