COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A Short North business has been accused of acting negligently and recklessly when two of its employees fatally attacked a 37-year-old man outside its establishment.
In a wrongful death lawsuit filed on Friday, the family of Gregory Coleman, Jr. claimed that Julep and other similarly-owned Columbus-area restaurants failed to adequately prevent two of its security personnel – Chrystian Foster and Dwayne Cummings – from “savagely” beating Coleman to death on Sept. 5.
“Not only did Julep employees attack Coleman, but throughout the entire saga, no Julep employee tried to break up the fight or render Coleman aid as he lay there dying,” the complaint filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court alleged.
Coleman’s father, Gregory Coleman Sr., told NBC4 that his family will not stop fighting until they see justice and change.
“I’m just heartbroken, but I’m glad now because now there’s some action that’s going to
be taken against the bar and against the killers of my son,” Coleman said.
Above: NBC4’s newscast from Sept. 22, 2022 detailing the suspects’ $1 million bond.
Other restaurants and bars owned by Fadi and Sam Michael, including Park Street Cantina, Granero Lounge, and Callahan’s Bar and Rooftop, are also named as defendants in the suit. Also listed as defendants are Colemans’ attackers, Foster, 32, and Cummings, 29, who both face murder charges and each are being held at the Franklin County Correction Facility II on a $1 million bond.
NBC4 reached out to Julep and its owners by phone, email and social media for comment on the lawsuit. A representative for its Facebook page responded and called the incident a “tragedy,” but said neither Foster, 32, nor Cummings, 29, were employees of Julep.
Around 2:30 a.m. on the day of the assault, Coleman — a manager and bartender at Short North Pint House a few blocks away — ordered food from a stand parked in front of Julep at 1014 N. High St. Foster, who is listed as one of Julep’s security guards in the complaint, reportedly approached Coleman and asked him to leave the premises.
Video released by the Columbus police shows Coleman and Foster squaring up with each other, the latter of whom successfully landed a punch. Cummings, who is listed in the complaint as a 6-year veteran security guard for Julep’s parent company, is then seen in the video sucker punching Coleman from the side, causing the 37-year-old victim “to crumble to the ground and smash his skull on the pavement,” the complaint reads.
Gregory Coleman Sr. said not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about how special his son was. But he also said he can’t get the images of his son, lying on the pavement alone, out of his head.
“Nobody helped him,” Coleman Sr. said. “He laid on that concrete for I think seven minutes before anybody assisted him.”
Two weeks later, Coleman died in the intensive care unit at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, an attorney with the family announced on Sept. 18. He “leaves behind a daughter and several other loving family members who will forever mourn his absence,” according to the complaint.
Julep has an obligation, the complaint alleges, to “exercise reasonable care” in the hiring of its employees. By failing both to adequately monitor Julep’s property and provide enough security for its patrons, Coleman’s family claimed Julep and the Michael brothers’ other businesses contributed to the 37-year-old’s death.
“Security’s there to protect people, to make them safe — not to do what happened here,” Columbus attorney Rex Elliott, who is representing Coleman’s family, told reporters at a press conference Friday morning.
Below: A press conference held by the family’s attorney regarding their lawsuit.
Elliott described Coleman, the father of a 9-year-old daughter, as “beloved.” Coleman played football first at Iowa State University and later at the University of Montana, according to his obituary.
Coleman’s father regularly goes to the pint house where his son worked — his presence still fills up the bar, he said.
“This bar was everything to him. He loved everybody in here,” Coleman Sr. said.
Valerie Phan worked with Coleman at the bar. She said it’s been tough not having here partner there to celebrate with during an exciting football game or light up the bar with tricks. And during December, Phan said, Short North Pint House was left without its resident Santa Claus.
Samuel Baker, a bartender at the pint house, said staff considers each other family — and Coleman was the older brother of the group.
“There’s been a hole for literally the entire five months,” Baker said. “Like football season was not the same without him.”
Elliott said the lawsuit and its demand for a jury trial is aimed to be a vehicle for improving safety in the area, “not just at Julep, but every bar down” in the Short North. The goal for Coleman’s family in filing the lawsuit, he said, is to prevent other families from being afflicted by similarly “senseless” death.
“It’s a small measure to try to clean up that area down there,” he said. “Short North is one of the crime jewels of our city, and we should all feel safe to go down there no matter what time at night.”