State liquor control investigates cricket club after fatal shooting

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Liquor Control Commission has opened an investigation into the Cricket Club bar in Battle Creek after an unarmed man was fatally shot by a security guard.

Calhoun County District Attorney David Gilbert, who ruled the Thanksgiving shooting was in self-defense, said the bar, which has a capacity of around 300 people, was badly overcrowded the night Xavier West, 29, was shot and killed. It is estimated that there were 900 or more patrons at the bar that evening.

“I thought there was a huge number of people in there, which probably explained a lot of the fights that were going on at the bar,” Gilbert told News 8 on Wednesday.

When asked if the bar should be held liable, the prosecutor replied: “I can’t really go there, but I’m sure they talk to lawyers.”

He said enforcement of overcrowding is up to the local fire marshal or the state liquor control board.

The Battle Creek Fire Marshal could not be reached Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for the Liquor Control Commission acknowledged that an investigation had been opened, adding that “the commission does not comment on open investigations”.

LCC records show the bar faced a violation, in 2019, for not having insurance, which led to a warning. Records show the bar is owned by Triple J Endeavors, LLC and lists three members: Jared Fulton, Joel Fulton and Jeremy Kanaga. They could not be reached for comment.

Xavier West’s parents have said they believe the bar should be held accountable.

“I think they should be closed, closed and never open again,” her mother Nakiesha West told News 8. “You’re not going to overcapacity. You know something is going to happen. It’s just a lot too many people. It was your establishment that you allowed this man to enter to do this to my son, and now I can never see him again.

The shooting followed a big brawl the day before Thanksgiving – traditionally the busiest night of the year for bars. As workers shoved customers, the guard was knocked to the ground and attacked.

The prosecutor said videos showed West brawling with the guard, punching him and diving on his back before the guard fired twice, a response West’s family called excessive.

Xavier was the middle child of Nakiesha West and had one child of his own, an 8-year-old daughter.

“He was such a big kid, he had the biggest heart, a heart of gold,” his mother said. “He sees you, he knows you, you’re going to get a kiss and a hug.”

She said her son went to the bar with relatives to celebrate a cousin’s birthday.

On Tuesday, she said she learned from a friend that the prosecutor ruled the shooting was self-defense.

“My heart sank and I started crying,” she said. “And when I hung up on the phone, I said, ‘No, that’s not going to happen. I will pray and pray and pray until I can pray no more. Something’s going to happen, something’s going to change.'”

West’s family admitted that he punched the guard.

“Did my son hit (the guard)? her stepfather, Walter Nichols, said. “Yes, he did, twice.”

But they said the guard shouldn’t have responded with gunfire. The bar owner had authorized the guard to carry a firearm, the prosecutor said.

“Excessive force, most definitely,” the stepfather said.

The parents argue that the prosecutor should not have looked into the case as he knows one of the owners and has already organized a campaign event at the Cricket Club.

“I would respect you more if you just recused yourself from the case and let another county try the case,” West’s stepfather said.

The prosecutor defended his decision, saying he had no connection to the guard.

“I have no conflict with him,” Gilbert said. ” I do not know him. I know his employer. I have been to the Cricket Club; I have been to Meijer too. That doesn’t mean I can’t review Meijer’s cases. »

The prosecutor said his investigation had been hampered because many witnesses were reluctant to come forward.

“We had over 900 people in this bar and 12 people showed up to talk,” Gilbert said. “Based on what I have been given, I have come to the conclusion that we cannot overcome self-defense with evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, but that does not mean that there is no no more information available.”

The Battle Creek Police Department has asked the state attorney general to investigate. The prosecutor said he welcomed such a review. West’s parents are also hoping the AG will take the case.

“I’m just grateful that she’s being given to someone else who can look into this matter, and I believe that God is going to allow us to get justice for Xavier,” his mother said. “It may take time, but that’s all we want.”

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