A Halls Chophouse employee fired a handgun into the air during Saturday night protests in downtown Charleston when one of the patrons, a former Clemson and professional football player, was injured in an altercation with members of the crowd.
The popular King Street restaurant was not spared from damage during the demonstration Saturday evening. Earlier in the day, hundreds of demonstrators marched through Charleston in peaceful protest to honor George Floyd, an African American man who died at the hands of police in Minnesota. By sundown, buildings caught on fire, windows were smashed and tensions escalated throughout the Holy City.
Jim Stuckey, a Clemson All-American and defensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Jets in the 1980s, was a patron at the restaurant on Saturday evening and was injured. The altercations in front of Hall's Chophouse quickly spread on social media and three videos shared with The Post and Courier and half a dozen eyewitness statements have helped answer questions as to what occurred.
As crowds began to form, an employee with the restaurant stepped outside, pointed a firearm and told protesters to back away from the establishment, an eyewitness who filmed the incident told the newspaper. Some members of the crowd began throwing things at the steakhouse after being shown the weapon.
Stuckey was already present in front of the restaurant with a golf club and was getting into a verbal altercation with some of the protesters. A Post and Courier reporter on the scene photographed and witnessed the former athlete holding the iron and a cigar while interacting with the crowd.
An eyewitness that filmed the interactions said Stuckey was then attacked by several people after shouting at the crowd and was knocked to the ground. Around 9:56 p.m., the Halls' employee then came back outside and fired at least four shots into the air according to videos shared with the newspaper and heard by a reporter on scene.
"Shots were fired during the height of the violence outside of our restaurant around the time a window at Halls was being broken," a statement from the restaurant said. "In an effort to protect customers and staff, a Halls' team member drew his licensed concealed firearm and discharged it into the air while other members of the Halls team brought an injured guest inside the restaurant."
The restaurant added that "no one was injured by the gunfire, but a Halls’ guest was injured in front of the restaurant." The steakhouse said in a statement that they are cooperating with authorities and will conduct an internal investigation.
Additionally, the restaurant said that certain staff members are trained and licensed to carry concealed weapons.
Windows were broken and some damage happened from an object being thrown through the glass, the restaurant confirmed. There was no looting on the premises.
Stuckey, when reached by phone on Sunday, did not want to elaborate on the event or the extent of his injuries and added that he was not pressing charges against any individuals.
On Sunday, the restaurant posted a statement on Facebook that read: "We will remain closed tonight. We love our city and its people. We will not let violence win the fight over the need for justice and equality."
The post had a wide-range of criticism and praise in the comments.
"I hope the employee that was standing out of your door and shooting into street becomes a clear indication to the rest of Charleston about the way your restaurant disregards life," one account wrote.
Another commenter said, "Thankfully your employee was armed and took action. I hope he is recognized and not reprimanded!"
Bill Hall, the founder and owner of the restaurant, would not answer questions about the incident when asked at his restaurant Sunday. He did issue a statement through a spokeswoman.
"Charleston is a city which has gracefully weathered the toughest storms, including the unthinkable tragedy at Mother Emanuel," his statement said. "I support the efforts and message of our peaceful protesters. I do not believe they are the individuals who have caused chaos in our city. We are cooperating with authorities as they investigate all that has taken place on King Street."
Police Chief Luther Reynolds said 10 people were charged after the protests overnight and more arrests are anticipated. He said he suspects the vandals causing property damage downtown were from outside Charleston, but he didn’t immediately have data to back that up. He said no one was seriously injured in the episode, but four firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation.
The City of Charleston enacted an earlier curfew for Sunday evening and requested the assistance of the South Carolina National Guard to keep order. Officials hope the new curfew, which will run from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., will help curb vandalism and public damage.
Sara Coello and Glenn Smith contributed to this report