Vibez Press Release: We Are Seeking Justice For Wattz

Updated: Feb 18

Vibez Lounge has been open since 2018 and we have a mission to feed everyone a soulful meal, lovingly prepared, that reminds you of home, and offers a social space where you can connect with incredible locals in your community. Located in the #SharpEnd business district in CoMo.


In order to accomplish this mission, we have a staff of 10-15 professionals that assist us in many areas, such as management, cook, wait staff, host persons, and security professionals. We average a total of 300 events on an annual basis, and many times, we offer multiple events during the day, with diverse crowds, and we offer our services by selling soul food, offer catering and to provide event planning in the wider community. We are a close-knit group and it's more like we are a family.


With the start of February, and Black History Month and Super Bowl weekend, we had just completed the process of switching our focus and experiences at our Lounge to catering to various age groups and demographics, but on Saturday night and Sunday morning, we would focus on creating "LIVE" experiences and that evening,


inside of our club, we had a wonderful time, and experience for over 175 people and it was one of the most beautiful events, only comparable and surpassed by the homecoming weekend celebration. We are one of the only spaces that young urban adults, mature audiences, students from all of the universities and professional citizens of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, from cities all over Boone County can come together and coexist.



On Sunday morning around 1:15 am, we stopped serving alcohol and started our normal process of giving signs to our audience, that the evening was coming to an end, and allowing all of our customers who were waiting on food orders, we allowed them the opportunity to wait until their food was complete before they left the premises. We stayed up to 2:15 am to serve food for takeout, and for patrons that were at our lounge. That evening there were about 10 people waiting for their food and our staff started our closing procedures. We also signaled the closure a little earlier since someone reported a leak in the ladies' restroom, so we took that as a sign to close so that we could do damage control and so there wouldn't be any accidents in that area.


One of our staff members, Tershawn E. Kitchen, aka Wattz, was an incredible human being, father, brother, son, and friend to so many people from all over.

We had gotten most people outside and were in the process of helping people to transition to their homes or next destinations. There were currently 4 police squad cars across the street, 3 more in the area and 3 of them outside of their vehicles, but they were not engaging with the patrons and citizens and assisting our staff with crowd dispersal. We had been asking them for quite some time on how to help us and how to work with our staff members instead of being distant and awkward in their interactions. We told CPD that it is not our job to do crowd control once people are out of our establishment, as the sidewalks and streets and public property. Wattz was a professional and was serious about his post and the safety of every one of our customers and was in the process of informing people to go home, which is not really our duty, we still do our best to help CPD with this aspect of their job. Because we still had staff members that were preparing to leave, our security staff was still outside in the front, waiting for all of our team to leave and for the last patrons to get their food.


A witness told KOMU 8 News, the shooter, Curtis Allen Lewis, got into a fight. While trying to break it up, the witness said Kitchen was shot three times near the front door of the nightclub and another victim, also outside, was shot twice. Both victims were taken to the hospital. Kitchen was pronounced dead. The other victim, who survived, "suffered from a gunshot wound to the face," according to police.
We advised all of our staff to work with the authorities in order to discover clarity on what exactly happened so that we can piece it all together. Ashley Jones, Ekene Kokelu and Morgan Gillespie were all working at the club at the time of the incident. Three witnesses to Sunday’s fatal shooting described the tragedy and the death of their 34-year-old co-worker, Tershawn E. Kitchen.
Jones, a bartender and bottle-server at the club and previously a reporter for the Missourian, said that, at first, nothing about that night seemed unusual.
Jones heard a group of women arguing and Security guard Wattz calmed her down and sat her in the booth. Jones, a bartender and bottle-server at the club and previously a reporter for the Missourian, said that, at first, nothing about that night seemed unusual.
We are fully aware that Tershawn "Wattz" Kitchen is a hero. If the shooter was able to get inside the building, was able to shoot wildly into the crowd, or was able to engage with police, this tragic story could have been even worse. The swift reaction from ALL of our staff and leadership and CPD, in the face of danger, will unfold as we learn more about what really happened.

Columbia Police Departments Immediate Reaction To The Shooting of Tershawn "Wattz" Kitchen


CPD said that they did not witness the fight that happened, as they were on the scene, but didn't move to assist our staff and the local citizens until the shooting started and then they reacted. They said that it was due to the lack of lighting. Out of all of the footage, we assert that this is probably the worse screenshot that they could have chosen but it serves their narrative to lay the blame on someone else. The street light over there to the right is shining but this issue has been the same for 2 years and could have been addressed proactively.

When CPD came across the street in less than 10 seconds, with guns drawn, they were very frantic, unprofessional and aggressive in the treatment all of the Vibez staff members and patrons like they were the perpetrators and not the victims of a violent crime.

We had staff members in the process of giving medical aid and comfort to Wattz when he was shot, and CPD pushed them off of him forcefully, told our staff to leave him alone, treated him like he was already gone, and was lackluster in their ability to give him medical assistance and attention in order to save his life. Once they determined that someone else was also shot and injured, they pulled him out of the doorway, left him lying on the concrete, and didn't have anyone giving him medical attention and wouldn't allow any of our staff to be present to help and assist him.

When the ambulance did come, they made the decision to allow him to die, since the young lady that was also shot, had a greater chance to live in their estimate, and many of the witnesses watched this conversation and unfortunately, watched our family member take his last breath, under the indifference of CPD's apathetic gaze. #BlackLivesMatter

Our staff tried multiple times to give aide, answer questions, soothe our patrons and work in conjunction to protect our business and property and none of their attempts at collaboration were accepted.


They ended up calling for a search warrant to search the premises but they didn't need to do that since all of the staff were cooperating willingly and trying to sort out everything themselves.


322.11 AT THE SCENE OF A CRIME


A valid search warrant is necessary to search the scene of a crime unless the person who is legally in charge of the property is incapacitated or gives consent. Generally, search warrants will be obtained in most instances even if the person in charge is incapacitated or provides consent. In such instances, where consent is granted or person is incapacitated, a search may be conducted if circumstances exist that would make waiting for a search warrant unreasonable (some level of exigency).


When they got the search warrant they treated our ownership and staff again like we were the perpetrators and warned our leadership that if we didn't leave, that we would be arrested. They were at our facility from 1:45 AM to 12:15 PM to the following day conducting their search.

However, when the news channels first started sharing their initial news from information that they received from the Columbia Police Department, they omitted many details that they were aware of in order to spin it in their favor. Our PR team communicated with the news agencies immediately, starting at 6 am to deal with the discrepancies, misinformation and character assassination attempts against our employee, brand and even the other parties involved. We informed the crime-related beat reporters of some facts that they weren't aware of and all of them were surprised and taken aback.

You can not enforce the law while also breaking the law.
  • They shared that they were called to the scene, instead of already being on the scene and this photo with GPS confirmation proves that there were 7 officers on the scene at the time of the shooting.


  • they did not disclose that they obtained a search warrant against the victims of this crime and the Vibez staff and that they threatened to arrest our staff if we wouldn't leave our property,

  • They didn't share that they acted like they believed the shooter over the victims.

  • No shooting happened inside of our facility but outside on the sidewalk and street.


If you look at all of the news footage, there are camera's installed in front of the facility in the parking garage that will allow all of us to see exactly what happened and to verify all stories. We know that the camera footage is available, and have put in requests to see the footage but we suspect that somehow the footage will disappear in this case.



So we left and came back when they concluded their search. When we got back, they had totally wrecked our lounge. There was cash money was all out on the counter, taken from the register, and not counted, they had taken all of our electronics, iPad, cellphones, DVR's and video equipment, Door Dash, Uber eats, Grub Hub, and ordering equipment, as well as our credit card processing machines that are required to continue to conduct business. Everything that happened in this incident, happened outside of our facility and yet, while we cooperated with them totally, they treated us like we were criminals and not a professionally run restaurant and lounge. As of now, they still have not returned our calls as to who is the officer or Detective in charge (We think Detective Gilstrap or Voss) and they have not answered any of our questions concerning this tragic incident to one of our family members. What they did not touch was our liquor cabinets, food warehouse, storage, and all other areas that were locked. Our facility was not cleaned up and spotless because we were not able to shut down properly before being removed from the building.


(Update: After pressure from our allies, CPD will give back cellphones on Monday)


Video Taken Of Vibez Lounge After The Search Warrant


The fact that all of this happened in the Sharp End Historic District in the Tibbs Building, during Black History month, and on Super Bowl weekend when law enforcement should have been on high alert, should have been more culturally competent and compassionate, all show how this tragedy could have been circumvented. We have been asking CPD and their leaders, Chief Geoff Jones, Robert Fox, and others in the Downtown district to work with us to ensure the safety of all citizens and their response to us has been dismal at best without any follow-through. We asked them multiple times to implement some of the recommendations to better our community and they simply said that we didn't have the funding and never made the commitment or made it a priority, even though we have lost over 50+ lives to gun violence since 2015.


Task Force Recommendations: DOWNLOAD REPORT

The Mayor’s Task Force on Community Violence presented the recommendations below to the city council in November 2014. Some members of the task force are critical of how quickly local governments are implementing the recommendations.

  1. Approach violence as a public health issue.

  2. Coordinate job training programs.

  3. Create and update communication tools for available programs.

  4. Host an annual forum to address crime, social issues, and discrimination.

  5. Create a youth community cultural center and family access center.

  6. Implement a violence interrupters program.

  7. Increase the number of available mentors in the community.

  8. Increase Columbia Public Schools’ ability to identify and help at-risk students.

  9. Implement community policing and positive communication between police and residents.

  10. Implement cultural competency training.

  11. Increase public involvement and accountability informing the police department’s mission and goals.

  12. Create greater community appreciation for police officers.

  13. Identify high-risk offenders.

  14. Create a city-level offender re-entry program.

  15. Engage city staff in the Boone County Offender Transition Network.


Additional Ways To Honor Tershawn "Wattz" Kitchen

Tershawn E. Kitchen (Walls), 34, of Columbia passed away on Sunday, February 2, 2020.

Celebration of Life Services will be at 1:00 p.m., Saturday, February 8 at Bach-Yager Funeral Chapel. The family will receive friends from 11:00 a.m. until the start of the service.  Burial will follow at Memorial Park Cemetery.


Tershawn was born on December 11, 1985, in Columbia, the son of Twila and Sylvester Walls and biological father, Terry Kitchen.  Tershawn graduated from Rock Bridge High School and was employed with 3M Company and as a security guard.  In 2014 he married, Treale Shaw in Columbia and she survives.


Tershawn is also survived by his children, Lauryn and Ariyah Kitchen and Kalia Evans, all of Columbia; parents, Sylvester and Twila Walls of Columbia; siblings, Darius and Victoria both of Columbia; and a host of cousins and other family members.


Memorial contributions are suggested to a Scholarship Fund for his children, (gifts to be given to his parents, Twila and Sylvester Walls), c/o Bach-Yager Funeral Chapel, 1610 N. Garth Ave., Columbia, MO 65202.


Services: Click here to see the obituary


CANDLELIGHT VIGIL

Friday

February 7th, 2020

5:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Vibez Lounge

19 N. 5th Street

Columbia, MO 65201


VISITATION

Saturday

February 8, 2020 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Bach-Yager Funeral Chapel 1610 N. Garth Ave Columbia, MO 65202


CELEBRATION OF LIFE

Saturday February 8, 2020 1:00 PM Bach-Yager Funeral Chapel 1610 N. Garth Ave Columbia, MO 65202


GoFundMe Page: Please support the family if you are able

On Sunday, February 2, 2020, many of our hearts were broken when we heard the earth-shattering news about the murder of our beloved friend, Tershawn Kitchen. Friends and family knew him as a positive, funny, hard-working man who often kept a part-time job along with full-time employment to provide for his children Kalia (Age 11), Lauryn (Age 6), and Ariyah (Age 2). We are setting up this GoFundMe to help with the loss of income that his family will no longer receive. Funds will be used to help cover month-to-month expenses as they are attempting to plan life after this devastating loss. Thank you to everyone who has asked about opportunities to give. We so appreciate your willingness to help. There is also a separate memorial fund on Shawn’s obituary that will leave scholarships for his daughters.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-family-transition-during-loss


ADDITIONAL EFFORTS FROM HIS SUPPORTERS, FAMILY, AND FRIENDS TO ENSURE JUSTICE:

1. ENSURE THAT HIS MURDERER IS PLACED BEHIND BARS AND THAT HIS FAMILY RECEIVES JUSTICE

The department arrested Curtis Allen Lewis, 36, of Columbia, Sunday on charges of voluntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and two counts of armed criminal action. He is being held in Boone County Jail on a $500,000 bond, cash-only, for the assault charge.

2. ENSURE THAT HIS WIFE, CHILDREN AND FAMILY ARE SUPPORTED AND OFFERED ASSISTANCE AS MUCH AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE.

(They successfully raised $8,500 for the family and they are still working on ways to provide additional funds in a scholarship for his wife and kids)

3. ENSURE THAT WE INVESTIGATE HIS DEATH AND THE MEDICAL TREATMENT FROM CPD TO MAKE SURE THAT ALL POLICY AND PROCEDURES WAS FOLLOWED

(CPD shared this video statement after 10 days of reviewing their videos from body cams, dash cams, garage video footage, and other sources and mentioned that they immediately began rendering aid, with the assistance of Vibez patrons. This statement totally contradicts the statement from our staff and the patrons in our facility at the time.)


While we appreciate Chief Jones and his executive leadership for meeting with us, working with us, and making some adjustments to be somewhat transparent, and taking the time to respond to us, create this video, even though we are not happy with the results. D+


Tyree Byndom, who has been serving as spokesman for the lounge in the aftermath of Kitchen’s death, said the video changes nothing and the lounge stands by its statement.


Byndom said the lounge had agreed to give police a week to address actions on the scene, but after 10 days had passed the agency provided a statement with no evidence, focused on defending itself and attempting to cover up any wrongdoing.


“We offered them an opportunity to work with us, to learn and grow from this tragic incident but we feel this statement is intended to undermine and erode our efforts to collaborate, that it is meant to erode public trust and confidence in our business and brand,” Byndom said.


In the video, Sinclair says officers were stationed outside of the club, but were unaware a fight had taken place because of the crowd and vehicles parked in front of the lounge.


The lounge questioned why, when the agency is supposed to be moving toward a community-oriented policing, officers were not engaged with the crowd instead of watching from afar.

“We didn’t see anything that offered us proof or facts, other than the GPS location of the officers, which actually proved that there were seven, not 4 officers at the scene before the altercation and not one of them was on the side of the street with all of the black and white citizens leaving to go home,” Byndom said. “We told them as much to their face when we met. In a nutshell, minimal accountability."

4. CONTINUE TO DO WORKS IN HIS NAME, IN ORDER TO ALWAYS KEEP HIM AS APART OF OUR LIVES AND SO HIS HEROIC SACRIFICE ISNT IN VAIN.

5. OFFER GRIEF COUNSELING AND LIFE COACHING TO ALL OF OUR STAFF, CUSTOMERS WHO WERE THERE AND THE FAMILY SHOULD THEY REQUEST AND REQUIRE IT, FROM WITNESSING THE TRAGIC LOSS OF THEIR LOVED ONE.

6. SINCE THE CITY AND CPD WON'T IMPLEMENT ANY OF THE TASK FORCE ON COMMUNITY VIOLENCE RECOMMENDATIONS, WE WILL ACTIVELY WORK TO DO THEM OURSELVES AND CHALLENGE AND/OR COLLABORATE WITH THE VIOLENT CRIMES TASK FORCE TO ENSURE THE FUTURE SAFETY OF OUR CUSTOMERS, STAFF, AND CITIZENS.


Download the new song "I Can't Wait" that was created recently, to honor, celebrate and heal from our grief and loss.







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