UPDATE: Judge gives bond to suspect in Comedy House assault; club owner speaks
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says an arrest has been made in connection with the assault of a comedian performing a set at the Comedy House that was caught on camera and shared on social media.
Lott announced the arrest of Marvin Toatley. Toatley was charged with three counts of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, third-degree assault and battery, and malicious injury to property.
During a bond hearing on Wednesday, Toatley was given a $65,000 bond.
Comedian Steve Brown was performing a set at the Decker Boulevard comedy club Sunday night when he began to "pick at" Toatley directly about his attitude and demeanor. Toatley responded by hopping on stage and began to attack him, according to Lott. Brown was not seriously injured, but two audience members were hurt.
"If you've ever been to the Comedy House, you know that sometimes the comedian will intend to pick at people in the audience," Lott said. "I think that's part of going to a show like this with the understanding that they get picked at. I've been to the Comedy House many times and I've been picked on, too. It's just part of going."
Video of the incident captured by a member of the audience spread quickly on social media. Lott praised the woman for her actions.
"We're happy when people do stuff like that," Lott said. "That helps us out tremendously in the investigation when someone sees an incident occurring and they just pull their phone out."
The video, along with the attention received from coverage by national and local media outlets, helped the sheriff's department find Toatley.
But Comedy House General Manager Peter Hamlett said the video doesn't tell the whole story because it doesn't show the lengths two guards in street clothes went to to try to get Toatley under control.
But Hamlett also laid some blame at Brown's feet, saying he "absolutely" stoked the flames of what happened.
"Sometimes, people make it all about them, and it's not all about them, and I think he's not thinking of the customers that were here – the other 136 people that were in the room – that he had the responsibility of keeping safe," Hamlett said.
The comic, on the other hand, has blasted the club for a perceived lack of security. It's a claim that hurts Hamlett.
"We have security people that are made up of ex-law enforcement and ex-military, and they're in plain clothes," Hamlett said.
He says one of guards was hurt by Toatley so badly he needed a wheelchair the next day.
"And they pursued the individual outside the building with law enforcement giving instructions, so Steve just doesn't understand," Hamlett said.
Still, Lott said the establishment itself had no culpability in this case and laid the blame squarely at Toatley for not being able to take a ribbing from Brown.
"He didn't like what the comedian had to say. He wasn't the only one that the comedian had picked on that night. It was just part of this guy's jokes. He just took offense to it and escalated the situation."
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