Militarized police: Missouri sheriff defends grenade use during strip club raid
A Missouri sheriff said his deputies used “flash-bang” grenades during a strip club raid to defend themselves against possible gunfire.
Pulaski County Sheriff Ron Long said undercover work and unspecified “intelligence” indicated patrons at the After Dark club likely had weapons and drugs, reported The News-Leader.
Long told the newspaper his deputies used the exploding devices during the Oct. 11 raid to prevent suspects from firing weapons after they are briefly stunned by the loud noise and bright light.
More than 30 law enforcement officers, including a SWAT team, from multiple agencies raided the club, where about 50 people were inside.
“We had a location that was a very elevated high-risk warrant,” Long said. “We deployed them the way we did to ensure no civilians were hurt in any way.”
He said evidence suggested the club was a biker gang hangout, and he said the club owner was holding a gun when officers burst in.
Some dancers hiding in a closet called 911 to report shots fired, but authorities said that was noise from the grenades.
The sheriff said “well-trained people” on the department’s tactical team used one flash-bang grenade outside the club and another inside, and he said no one complained of injuries for hours after the raid.
The owner, however, claimed injuries occurred while making a statement to investigators at the scene.
Four firearms, one of which was reported stolen from a federal law enforcement agency, and two replica firearms were seized in the raid, the sheriff said.
Club owner Matthew Wagner was charged Tuesday with five counts of allowing dancers to be nude or semi-nude, three counts of being open after midnight and two counts of selling alcohol.
The 33-year-old Wagner was also charged with felony drug possession after investigators found three vials of anabolic steroids intended for cattle and syringes in his office, according to court documents.
Detectives had been investigating the strip club for suspected alcohol sales and topless or nude dancing.
The Missouri Supreme Court in 2011 upheld a state law banning nudity, alcohol, and touching between scantily clad employees and customers in sexually oriented business.
The dancers were charged with misdemeanors.