Second bar fight in month ends in death
By CHRIS TISCH
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 16, 2001
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- For the second time in a month, someone has died after being involved in a bar fight in this small beach community.
James Dennis Usrey, 29, died Monday morning, six days after his head was slammed to the ground during a fight outside the Red Lion Restaurant and British Pub, 1407 Gulf Blvd., Pinellas sheriff's officials said.
Officials said Dale L. Miller, 31, took Usrey to the ground about 1:30 a.m. May 8 after Usrey threw an Icehouse beer bottle that hit Miller in the neck or chin. Usrey hit his head on a sidewalk as he was tackled, sheriff's spokesman Greg Tita said.
Patrons flagged down deputies, who found Usrey lying on the sidewalk. His eyes were closed, but he was able to answer questions, Tita said.
An ambulance took Usrey to Suncoast Hospital. Unconscious, Usrey was transferred to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where he remained until being discharged on Sunday. Over this time, doctors at times thought Usrey's injuries were life-threatening and at other times said he would be okay, Tita said.
But on Monday morning, an ambulance was summoned to Usrey's home, 206 16th Ave., Apt. 3, in Indian Rocks Beach. Usrey was taken to Suncoast Hospital, where he was pronounced dead about 3:30 a.m., Tita said.
An autopsy is pending toxicology results, but "there's a likelihood it (the fight) contributed to his death," Tita said.
Tita said no charges will be filed against Miller, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday. "We're having a hard time here. Bye," said a woman who answered the phone at his home.
Tita said the fight began over a pool game, which Miller was playing with Brian Stencill, Usrey's roommate. When the game was over, a fight erupted between Miller and Stencill. Usrey tried to break it up, but was unsuccessful, Tita said.
Usrey threw a beer bottle at Miller, who tackled Usrey, Tita said. According to sheriff's reports, one witness said Miller got up after the tackle and said: "Who's next?"
"There were a number of fights going on," Tita said. "It would be hard to find criminal intent with defending yourself if you had a beer bottle thrown at you."
Last month, a fight at Whitey's Beach Bar on Gulf Boulevard resulted in the death of 40-year-old Edward Lipowski. Sheriff's detectives charged Jason Weiss, 28, with second-degree murder in connection with Lipowski's death.
Sheriff's officials said Weiss took Lipowski to the ground, which caused him to hit his head, after Lipowski told him to leave a woman alone. Weiss had waited outside the bar for Lipowski and the woman after he was kicked out, sheriff's officials said.
Indian Rocks City Manager Tom Brobeil said problems with some local taverns, including the Red Lion, have been on the rise. The bars are drawing more people, which is leading to more noise, more unruly patrons and more complaints from residents, he said.
The city is considering adopting a conditional use permit that would grant businesses alcohol or outside entertainment licenses only if they meet certain standards, Brobeil said.
He said the city has asked the Red Lion to hire security if needed, quickly contact the Sheriff's Office if problems arise and keep a closer eye on patrons.
"The recent violence is disturbing," Brobeil said. "If the owners of these establishments aren't pro-active in policing themselves . . . if they don't keep on top of it, this could become a reoccuring problem."
The owner of the Red Lion wasn't available for comment Tuesday.
The recent problems are not representative of this beach community, said Brobeil. "This is not what we consider normal behavior. Nobody can control another person's actions, but they need to govern their patrons' behavior," he said.
An indication of the small-town nature of Indian Rocks Beach: Both Weiss and Usrey worked at Crabby Bill's.
Another: A reporter's phone call to the Red Lion Tuesday was answered by daytime manager Jennifer Lipowski, the wife of Edward Lipowski, the victim of last month's homicide.
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