Schuster melee: ‘There’s like 5 or 6 fights going on inside here’

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Video shows fights breaking out at Schuster Center

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

No Dayton police officers were inside the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center downtown when a large fight broke out after a comedy show ended Friday night.

Video of the fight surfaced over the weekend on social media and showed several people brawling in the venue’s six-story open air glass atrium, the Kettering Wintergarden, after a show by comedian Mike Epps.

“If you could send a bunch of crews down here, there’s a bunch of fights that just broke out,” an unidentified man said in a 911 call obtained by the Dayton Daily News. “There’s like five or six fights going on inside here.”

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The video appears to show, among other incidents, a person on the ground repeatedly punched by another person as some guests attempted to intervene. Other guests watched the unfolding brawl.

No police or security are immediately visible in the video of the fight, which appears to last more than two minutes.

A city of Dayton spokeswoman said the incident is under investigation but noted that off-duty officers are assigned to the outside of the Schuster Center before and after shows. The off-duty officers do not wear police uniforms, the spokeswoman said.

Security inside is handled by non-police security personnel contracted by the Victoria Theatre Association, which runs the West Second Street theater, the city said.

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In an interview Monday, a spokeswoman for the theater’s owner said the fights were the”first time ever” such a disturbance occurred at the venue in its 15-year history.

“There’s never been anything like this before,” said Diane Schoeffler-Warren, spokeswoman for the VTA.

Schoeffler-Warren said standard security was in place for the Friday night event, billed as the “Platinum Comedy Tour.” The theater is cooperating with police, she said, and frequently works with the police and fire departments to identify best safety practices.

She said event promoters are responsible for additional security, if desired.

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Friday’s event was brought to the Schuster Center by an outside promoter, Schoeffler-Warren said.

The newspaper could locate only one Dayton police record Monday that referenced the department’s involvement, but the report came about 16 hours after the incident.

The report said Dayton police responded to Good Samaritan North Health Center to meet with an apparent victim from the assault. The report did not indicate if any suspects were identified, charged or arrested. Attempts to contact the reported victim were unsuccessful.

One man — who identified himself to dispatchers in another 911 call as “just security here” at the theater — described the scene.

“It’s actually inside the building, in the front,” the man told dispatchers, according to a recording of the call obtained by the newspaper. “I see it on camera now, there’s at least five people fighting.”

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Schoeffler-Warren said theater management work with Securitas, a third-party security company. In a 2016 Daily News interview, she said the theater has “closed-circuit TV cameras everywhere.”

An ambulance was also called to theater, Schoeffler-Warren said. A spokesman for the Dayton Fire Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ground was broken for the Schuster Center April 22, 2000. It is built on the site of the former Rike’s department store, which opened in 1912. The building was imploded in November 1999 while it was the defunct Lazarus building.

The 13,000-square-foot glass Wintergarden was designed to be the “public room” of the structure, according to a 2003 interview with the architect.

Staff Writers Mike Campbell, Lisa Powell and Drew Simon contributed reporting.

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