The victim in an April assault at a Five Points bar – an incident in which a former USC football player was charged and two current players were named in a police report – says two men pinned him against the bar before someone started punching him, and that it was all captured on surveillance video.
Payton Douglas, 24, is the victim in the April 29 incident at Five Points Saloon on Harden Street. He is an exercise science major at USC-Aiken and came to Columbia that weekend to visit a friend who is a student at USC. Together with a third friend, they took an Uber to Five Points the night of April 28, Douglas said during an interview with The State newspaper.
He said he is talking about the incident because he wanted to tell his side of the story. The Columbia Police Department isn’t discussing the case outside of the courtroom.
Douglas said he and his friends went to the Five Points Saloon at about 11:30 p.m., left and returned at about 2 a.m. After about an hour, Douglas said he ended up at the bar’s outdoor patio area, talking with some other friends who were smoking. He went back inside to order a drink and, at the bar, saw two women he knew.
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Douglas said he and the two talked briefly, and he pulled out his phone to check text messages and social media.
“This group of guys walked in – three guys,” he said. “One of them bumps into my arm and I lose my phone. It falls to the ground.
“I got his attention and let him know, ‘Hey, buddy, you made me drop my phone,’” he continued, referring to the man he said bumped him. “He just kind of looked down, looked up at me and kind of smirked and was like, unapologetic about it.”
One of the women Douglas was talking to picked up his phone and handed it back to him, he said.
“I don’t remember what was said after that, but he ended up grabbing my wrist,” Douglas said. “His other buddy grabbed my other wrist.”
After the men pushed him back against the bar, Douglas said the next thing he remembers is someone hitting him. He said he couldn’t see who it was.
‘Everyone just jumps in’
Several days after the incident, a police investigator showed Douglas surveillance video from inside the bar that captured the moments leading to the incident, he said.
Police have not made the video public, saying it is still part of an ongoing police investigation.
Douglas said the video shows him raising an open hand up and toward the man who first grabbed his wrist.
“I don’t know what I was doing because I wasn’t throwing a punch and my hand was open,” he said. “I didn’t get my hand on him, but he grabbed my wrist ... and wouldn’t let go. His other buddy grabbed my other wrist. That’s when they had me pinned against the bar. The next thing I know, somebody was hitting me.”
In the video, which Douglas said is low quality, it’s difficult to make out what happens after he is pinned down, he said.
“Everyone just jumps in,” he said. “It’s a big swarm.”
The entire incident lasted 15 to 20 seconds, Douglas said. During the commotion, he said, he was able to break free and stumble to the side of what police said had become a large crowd.
Douglas said a bar employee told him there was a police officer nearby, just outside the business. The officer spoke with him and the employee at the same time, he said.
“The officer asked me, ‘Did you know the guys?’” Douglas recalled. “I said, ‘I have no idea who they are. (A bar employee) said, ‘I know who they are. They come here all the time. They’re on the football team.’”
Three names ended up on the police incident report.
Bar officials have declined requests for an interview.
No other arrests expected
Douglas said he had swelling and bruising on the left side of his face, and a scar now near his left eye. But he didn’t go to see a doctor.
The next day, he looked up the three players named by the bar manager and said he recognized them as the three who passed by him in the bar when his phone was knocked from his hand.
He said also he got the cell number for one of the bar’s bouncers and texted him the next day. The bouncer told him that former USC football player Jalen Dread was one of the men who got involved after he was pinned down and punched him, he said.
“That’s the only one they know for sure was hitting me,” Douglas said of police.
Dread was charged with third-degree assault and battery. His attorney said at his bond hearing that “there was another football player” in the bar who was not named in the police report, and that police charged the wrong man. She declined to name the player.
Columbia police said “multiple witnesses” identified Dread, and that investigators do not expect to charge anyone else.
Douglas, who has a pending DUI charge in the city of Aiken from November, said he had one beer before they went to Five Points that night and three or four drinks while he and his friends were downtown.
‘Not enough proof’
Douglas served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years and was honorably discharged in 2015, he said.
He suffered a brain injury from an IED explosion while serving in Afghanistan, which caused some short-term memory problems, he said. He said the memory problems did not affect his recollection of the events while talking with police or with a reporter.
An investigator showed Douglas two angles of video from inside the bar, he said. Even though the quality is low, Douglas said the faces of the three men the bar staff reportedly identified as football players are distinguishable. No one else has described the content of the video to The State.
Douglas said he was upset that only Dread was charged, and that he contacted the police investigator after the decision not to charge anyone else.
“He just said, ‘There’s really not enough proof in the video to say that those other guys were involved,’” Douglas said, adding that after he was pinned to the bar, “you can’t really see anything. You can’t see who punched who.”
The video remains in evidence with the Columbia Police Department. The State newspaper has filed a public records request for a copy, but the city of Columbia has said it will not release the video as long as the case is under investigation.
Douglas said neither of the friends he went to Five Points with that night were near the bar when the assault happened. Attempts by The State newspaper to reach the two women Douglas said were near him at the bar when the assault happened were unsuccessful.