Widow of man allegedly killed by bouncer seeks regulation

Widow of man allegedly killed by bouncer seeks regulation
Left: Ronnie Gene Ackley, Jr. , right: Chris Campbell
Left: Ronnie Gene Ackley, Jr. , right: Chris Campbell

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Right now there are no laws in South Carolina regulating what bouncers are and are not allowed to do.  One local woman paid the ultimate price: the loss of her husband. She allegedly lost him at the hands of those who were hired to keep the bar where he died safe.

WMBF News Anchor Lisa Gresci looked into this woman's story, and found out how she's trying to change the way our state leaders regulate bouncers.

The last walk Jay UnRue made was out of a bar. Not far from the front door, he was taken on by not one, but two people.  UnRue was beaten until his heart stopped beating.

His widow, still waiting for a trial, is speaking up about the night she lost the love of her life and about the law she's trying to pass in his name.

"I collapsed, um, I collapsed… it took a lot out of me," said Teresa UnRue, remembering the morning police found her at church and told her that her husband, 37-year-old Thomas Edward UnRue Jr., known as Jay,  was found dead outside a bar in Pawley's Island. Immediately, an overwhelming feeling of emptiness came over Teresa.

"I really just didn't see any point, and I always said, the way you know you love somebody, is when your dreams become theirs, and they're one, so when one of them dies, there's nothing there," UnRue explained while holding back tears.

According to a police report from the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office, on February 9 2013, an officer arrived at Lumpy's Bar and Grill to find a group of people standing around Jay's body. The officer noticed Jay was blue in the face, and he couldn't find a pulse. A county coroner later told Teresa Jay had suffered a massive heart attack.

"If he wouldn't have had that fight, then it wouldn't have happened, and it's still a homicide, it's a homicide, it's a murder. They were trying to kill him, and they did," UnRue said.

The police report goes on to say a witness told the officer, two Lumpy's employees escorted Jay outside, and a fight broke out just beyond the front door.  The bouncer, Chris Campbell, was on top of Jay, and another employee, Ronnie Ackley, jumped in.

"You think he's invincible, because he was to me," UnRue cried."Jay was so strong, you know, you can't imagine somebody taking him down."

But they did take him down, and he didn't get back up. Both men are charged with Jay's murder. Ackley is out on bond while the trial is pending. Campbell is behind bars on another attempted murder charge, an investigation we brought to you on WMBF News when he allegedly bit off his girlfriend's nose.

As for Lumpy's Bar and Grill, it's now closed for good.  WMBF News spoke with the property owner, Carlo Maro, off camera.  Maro remembers the morning after, watching the security tapes.  WMBF News requested these tapes, but couldn't get them because the trial is pending.

Maro says the tapes clearly show Ackley and Campbell on top of Jay, beating him. Maro, in disgust, said it bothers him Ackley is still able to walk around as a free man.

What bothers Teresa the most, is her husband was killed by those who were hired to keep the patrons safe.

"If they're there, for their ego trip, just to be big and bad, then they shouldn't be bouncers, because that's not what it's for, it's for security not to pretend… it doesn't give you free reign to fight somebody," she said.

Teresa is now drafting "Jay's Law," a bill to regulate bouncers in our state.

State senator and former Horry County Solicitor Greg Hembree says he's prosecuted cases like this before - bouncers overstepping their boundaries.

Hembree explained he's seen cases where bouncers "used excessive force- used force that was unnecessary to accomplish their objective."

Hembree says unlike a security officer, there aren't regulations on a bouncer's training.

"But bouncers don't require any certifications so anybody can do it, you don't have to have any particular training, you don't have to have any type of insurance, or anything like that to protect against some sort of a problem if it occurs," Hembree said.

UnRue wants to change this. Jay's Law would call for training: teaching bouncers how to diffuse situations, read people who have been drinking, and if a situation calls for it, how to take them down in a safe way.

It would also call for bouncers to be paid a reasonable wage, a wage worth doing the job the way it's supposed to be done.

"Bouncers are supposed to be there to protect," UnRue said.

"I think bouncers may see their role, as sometimes being an enforcer, they may take it, your ego can get engaged in that, and you think you're some sort of a movie tough guy, when you're really there to not use force, but to avoid using force," Hembree explained.

Hembree says without a doubt, he and other state leaders look at real life experiences when passing laws, and agrees this case ended on an extreme note.

"It's the kind of case that can get some attention and get some action in the general assembly, and it may lead to overall improving our system," Hembree said.

"I want something good to come out of his name, I want something good to come out of the person that he was,  and what he taught me," UnRue said.

Teresa says Jay was the kind of person who would do anything for anybody and taught her the true meaning of life.  She believes this bill will not only keep Jay's memory alive, but also give other victims closure, while making sure bars and restaurants stay safe.

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