Charges dropped in Kennewick bar assault

By Paula Horton, Tri-City HeraldJuly 11, 2012 

Assault charges were dismissed against a 25-year-old Tri-City man accused of attacking two security officers at a Kennewick bar after witnesses expected to testify that the man was defending himself.

At least one of the security employees was involved in another violent confrontation last week at the same bar that has left a Richland man in a drug-induced coma.

Ben Ensign, 31, remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit at Kadlec Regional Medical Center following the July 4 incident.

"It is believed that the patron sustained permanent brain damage as a result of the security officer's actions," Deputy Prosecutor Megan Whitmire wrote in her dismissal order in the February assault.

Witnesses to the February incident support Brian Alexander Duncan's self-defense claim against the Jack Didley's bouncers, according to Benton County Superior Court documents.

The testimony of witnesses "would most likely lead the jury to believe that excessive force was used by the victim and other security officers when they restrained the defendant," Whitmire wrote.

Duncan was arrested Feb. 5 by Kennewick police and charged with second-degree assault and fourth-degree assault.

Security officers at the time said they were breaking up a fight in front of the downtown Kennewick bar when Duncan allegedly stepped in without reason and punched Victor Ruiz in the nose, documents said.

A second officer, Benjamin Trudeau, said he saw the assault, moved in to take Duncan to the ground and was repeatedly punched by Duncan.

Duncan pleaded innocent, claiming self-defense.

According to the dismissal order filed Monday in Superior Court, Whitmire said four people would testify that Duncan only hit Ruiz in the face after the bouncer went after Duncan and shoved him.

Ruiz then threw Duncan to the ground where he was beaten by all three security employees, according to the initial charging documents.

"Defense witnesses would testify that the security guards assaulted the defendant by sitting on him (with a combined weight in excess of 700 pounds), kneeing him, and pushing his head and/or face into the road," documents said.

A fifth witness said the security guards were "out of control" and bystanders were yelling for them to leave Duncan alone, documents said.

One woman tried to videotape the incident with her cellphone, but one of the bouncers batted the phone out of her hand, the fifth witness said.

Whitmire said a Jack Didley's employee said Duncan and the bouncer might have been in a mutual shoving match and wasn't sure whether Duncan hit the guard first.

But, the employee said they did see one of the guards throw his knee into Duncan's body, which corroborated the statements of the other witnesses, documents said.

Whitmire said dismissing the assault charges was warranted because jurors would likely believe the testimony of Duncan and his friends that the security employee, rather than Duncan, "was the aggressor in the altercation," documents said.

In the Fourth of July incident, Kennewick police say Ensign was removed from the bar because of his behavior and then he tried to force his way back inside Jack Didley's.

Witnesses say one security employee grabbed Ensign by the neck and another grabbed his feet and carried him away from the door before he ended up on the pavement, police said.

Detectives are investigating whether Ensign was thrown or dropped to the ground intentionally. He suffered a skull fracture when his head hit the sidewalk.

No arrests have been made, and the police report will be forwarded to prosecutors to review for possible charges once it's completed, said police.

Meanwhile, Ensign's family -- including father, Brian Ensign, and mother, Dee Foster -- have been at Kadlec around-the-clock.

Ben Ensign, the father of a 6-year-old daughter, is in a medically-induced coma to try to slow the swelling on the left side of his brain, his uncle, Kevin Ensign, told the Herald.

It could be a couple of weeks before doctors will be able to let Ensign, who works at Lithia Dodge, wake up and so they can assess his injuries, his brother said.

An account has been established at Gesa Credit Union to help Ensign. Donations can be made in Ben Ensign's name at any branch.

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