The following link is a digital copy of the prepared statements by Cumberland Police Chief Charles Hinnant and Officer Cory Beard regarding the Aug. 28 incident at the Wonder Bar on Virginia Avenue.

- Chief Hinnant's prepared testimony (PDF)

- Officer Beard's prepared testimony (PDF)

- Video surveillance presentation (large file)



CUMBERLAND — The Wonder Bar will not reopen.

The Allegany County Board of License Commissioners, better known as the liquor board, on Wednesday extended bar owner Elwood Beavers’s liquor license suspension at the Virginia Avenue location for another six months to give him enough time to find a buyer. The long-term suspension was handed down after a strikingly graphic presentation by Cumberland Police Department officers who responded to an early-morning incident last Friday that resulted in seven arrests.

There could have been more taken to jail, said Cpl. Eric Bonner during a showing of video surveillance , “but we ran out of handcuffs.”

The board is authorized to take such action under Article 2B of the Annotated Code of Maryland, assistant County Attorney Barry Levine said. Beavers can appeal the disciplinary action to the Allegany County Circuit Court. Officials encouraged him to hire an attorney. He did not have one present during the public hearing, attended by Cumberland Mayor Lee Fiedler, City Administrator Jeff Repp and council members Floyd “Pete” Elliott and Brian Grim.

Police Chief Charles Hinnant said the “melee,” in which some 30 people participated, resulted in three law enforcement officers being assaulted. Fortunately, only one minor injury was sustained. Recent special enforcement efforts by city police “are not adequately addressing the issue at the Wonder Bar.”

From May through Aug. 31 this year, there have been 20 officer-initiated complaints specifically identifying the Wonder Bar as the place where trouble began, Hinnant said. There were five in the same period in 2008. In those four months this year, there have been 10 alcohol violations compared to just one last year.

Liquor board Chairman Gerald Delaney said many of those violations were open-container violations, caused by Wonder Bar patrons leaving the premises with beer in hand.

“You’re supposed to stop that,” Delaney said.

Hinnant said the incident left the rest of the city short on police protection. It also impacted the entire county, police said, as Maryland State Police shut down its LaVale barrack to respond and Allegany County Bureau of Police also responded.

“These police officers could have been killed,” said liquor board member Michael Griffith.

Bonner and Officer Angelo Mazzone were working a state-funded DUI grant that morning and happened by the Virginia Avenue location even before Officer Cory Beard had called for assistance. Bonner, a seven-year police veteran, noted that upon arrival, he saw two Cumberland police officers “fighting for not only their safety but maybe their life.”

Shortly, Bonner found himself in an unenviable position of being alone for approximately 10 minutes, surrounded by 10 to 15 people, many of them intoxicated.

“I was afraid for myself,” Bonner said. “This, by far, had to be the worst incident” to which he said. “If 30 people had wanted to take on six police officers, we were in trouble.”

The incident had started inside the Wonder Bar, police said, and almost everyone involved had become intoxicated with alcohol purchased inside the bar.

“In other words, they were intoxicated then and were served more alcohol,” liquor board member Frederick Hill inquired of Officer Cory Beard.

“Yes,” Beard said.

Beavers, a building contractor and considered by the liquor board to be an absentee owner, said he “was a little bit in the dark” regarding Friday’s incident, the second stemming from the bar in less than 24 hours. “I’m appalled by what happened as well. I don’t want to see anybody hurt. I don’t want to see a riot. I actually thought things were OK there. I just assumed everybody was behaving.”

They weren’t. Three factors — intoxication, drugs and knives — made Friday’s situation go from bad to worse. Beard said one suspect arrested kept trying to reach toward his back while scuffling with police. Two knives were later found in his possession, he said.

Delaney told Beavers the license must be sold within six months “and it will have to be moved. Your license will not go back to that location.”

Delaney said it was a privilege to own a county liquor license and “you have abused that privilege.”

After the hearing, the regular liquor board meeting continued. Delaney asked Scott Warner, owner of the Old Route 51 Saloon south of Cumberland, if he understood what had happened to Beavers. He did.

“You better get that under control,” Delaney said, or the same thing could happen.

Warner, a retired police officer, said he is actively pursuing a buyer for the business and figured keeping the business open would make that easier. He assured Delaney and the board business would be cleaned up.

Kevin Spradlin can be reached at kspradlin@times-news.com.

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