Jack Didley's bouncer faces assault charges

By Paula Horton, Tri-City HeraldJuly 31, 2012 

A bouncer at a downtown Kennewick club has been charged with assault for a July 4 incident that left a Richland man with a serious head injury.

Matthew Thomas Hibbard, 41, is accused of causing bodily harm to Ben Ensign by dropping him onto the sidewalk outside Jack Didley's.

Hibbard is being sent a summons to appear in Benton County Superior Court on Aug. 9. He's charged with third-degree assault with aggravating circumstances.

The charges allege Hibbard acted with criminal negligence and caused excessive injuries to Ensign.

Ensign, 31, was critically injured outside the bar at 109 W. Kennewick Ave.

A Facebook page called "Justice For Ben" and a blog were created to share his story, raise awareness about the "injustice at Jack Didley's," and provide information about fundraising efforts.

Detectives with Kennewick police's Criminal Apprehension Team investigated to determine whether Ensign was thrown to the ground, or slipped and was dropped by the bouncers, officials previously told the Herald.

They reviewed video from the bar that they used to aid their investigation.

The police reports were sent on to the Benton County Prosecutor's Office, but Prosecutor Andy Miller said they didn't have all the information they needed to file charges until Monday.

Ensign's uncle, Kevin Ensign of Kennewick, said they preferred to leave the case in the court's hand, but "we're just glad to see that the process is starting to work."

"Right now our focus remains on Ben and his recovery," Kevin Ensign told the Herald. "It still remains day to day."

Family has been at Ensign's side at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland since he was hurt.

Ensign had gone to Jack Didley's with some coworkers after a day of work and watching the Fourth of July fireworks show.

While at the bar, he reportedly caused a disturbance and was asked to leave. Ensign was intoxicated at the time, documents said.

Ensign eventually left Jack Didley's but returned a few minutes later and tried to get inside again, documents said.

That is when Hibbard and another man working security at the club grabbed Ensign and carried him out.

Hibbard grabbed Ensign around his neck and head, while the other man had his legs, documents said. They then carried him out and dropped him onto a concrete sidewalk.

Ensign suffered multiple skull fractures. A Kadlec neurosurgeon said Ensign had a "significant traumatic injury" to the left side of his head, court documents said.

Ensign's family said he has been weaned from the drugs that kept him in a coma, but every day is still a struggle. He remains in the intensive care unit.

Kevin Ensign said it's still too soon for doctors to know the full extent of damage his nephew has suffered.

According to a post last week on the blog, the left side of Ben Ensign's brain is still swelling and he still is on life support.

Surgeons had earlier told his family that Ensign may never be the same.

Ensign works at Lithia Dodge and has a 6-year-old daughter. Donations to help with expenses can be made in Ben Ensign's name at any Gesa Credit Union branch.

-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; phorton@tricityherald.com

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