Club's Landlord Blamed In Lawsuit For Gang Killing

If a bunch of dudes get in a fight outside of a night club and one them kills another, is it the fault of the bar's landlord?

That's essentially the question at hand in a lawsuit filed in Harris County District Court, claiming that poor security at the Kahlua Disco club near the Sharpstown mall helped cause a throng of gang-bangers to beat and kill 22-year-old Joel Martinez last spring.

According to police reports, Martinez was the victim of mistaken identity. On March 29, he was at the Kahlua club when the bouncer tossed out a couple of MS-13 gang members for fighting in the bathroom. Later that night when Martinez walked out of the bar, he ran up against the guys plus several of their colleagues. Martinez was, unfortunately, wearing a shirt and belt matching the color of a rival gang, and got beat with fists and bottles before being shot in the head. Detectives have said there is no evidence that Martinez belonged to the rival gang.

Police later arrested eight suspected gang members for their alleged role in the killing; their trials are pending.

But now, back to the question of blaming the landlord.

Martinez's family claims that the property's management company, Davis Brothers, did not provide adequate security. According to the lawsuit, the company should have known about previous gang-related crimes in that area and should have foreseen that a bar patron would be injured, and did not make the business reasonably safe.

"I've talked to several security experts," says the Martinez family's attorney, Daniel Plake, "and they've all said, 'Yeah, this is a great case for showing that security could've prevented this.'"

Lance Davis of Davis Brothers acknowledges the club is in a gang-infested area, but says the bar owners try their best to keep the violence at bay.

"The people who operate that club are stand-up people," says Davis. "There is a lot of gang activity in that area and we've had to close down a few of our other tenants for illicit uses of properties. But the Kahlua club has security. We made them do it and they were willing to because they are trying to run a decent place there."

But is it really the fault of the landlord and management company if a murder happens outside its tenant's doors after a bouncer already tossed out some of the suspected killers for fighting?

Perhaps, but it seems like a tricky one. Guess that's why we have lawyers and judges.

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Chris Vogel
Contact: Chris Vogel