Haphduzn punch at Nomad World Pub sparks lawsuit
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
The Nomad World Pub exploded with light as the last beats from the evening's DJ rang out. For two hours, Emiliano Silva Izquierdo and his wife Cherolyn Fischer had been drinking PBR tall boys and dancing, but now it was time to go home.
Jordan Wallingford, better known as Haphduzn within local hip hop circles, was moonlighting as a bouncer and approached the lingering crowd. By the following spring, he would make a name for himself as the new guy on Atmosphere's Welcome to Minnesota Tour. But in the early hours of a Sunday in December 2012, he had the task of kicking people out.
He approached Silva and told him to leave. Near the exit, Wallingford threw a punch that connected with Silva's mouth.
"That was the only time we actually touched," Silva says. "That in itself broke my jaw in two places."
What actually happened that night is the subject of a personal injury lawsuit filed in May. Two wildly different narratives have emerged describing the moments leading up to the violence. A trial is set to begin March 24, 2014.
Less than a week after the fight, attorneys for Silva and Fischer sent a letter to the bar declaring their intention to sue and asking it to preserve the night's video surveillance. Speaking on behalf of the Nomad and its owner, attorney Bill Celebrezze declined to comment on the footage, or even confirm whether it still exists.
Silva's and Fischer's tale is a simple one: Wallingford approached, told his 5' 7" adversary to leave, then disappeared into the bathroom. The 6' 6" bouncer returned a minute later, more irritated than before.
"I told you to get the fuck out of here," Wallingford allegedly said.
"Relax," Silva says he responded. "There's no need for that. We're leaving."
Silva was about three feet away when he felt someone on his heels, turned, and met Wallingford's fist. Blood spewed from an open wound in his mouth.
Fischer stepped between them, she says, and the bouncer made a threat. They all moved out to the street, where a shouting match ensued.
Two Minneapolis cops approached to see what all the commotion was about.
"Go home," one of them allegedly told Silva. "Go to bed."
Instead, he went to a hospital, where he underwent the first of two surgeries to repair his jaw. He works as a part-time vocal talent and full-time interpreter at Hennepin County Medical Center. Unable to speak after the punch, he couldn't work.
He will be plagued with several dental problems for the rest of his life, according to the lawsuit: his gums have receded, he now has a cross bite, and part of his lower lip is permanently numb. Fischer, a preschool administrator, had to stay home to care for her husband. Silva also can't fully open his mouth and must rinse after every meal to get food out from under his gums.
"I will never be able to eat a burger again," he says. "There's no money they can pay you for losing the ability to eat the way you used to."
A screenshot of Haphduzn's Twitter feed taken Sept. 3
In Wallingford's version of the event, Silva was drunk and taunting the bouncer, telling him he wanted him to step outside.
"No, you don't," Wallingford recalls responding.
Silva stepped towards Wallingford, he says, and almost knocked Fischer and another woman into a glass case at the front of the bar.
Wallingford caught both women from falling and then got sucker punched by Silva, he says. In turn, Wallingford hit Silva with a short arm punch -- just enough force, he thought, to stun the man and push everyone outside.
Wallingford says he locked the door, only to open it a minute later for a cop who wanted his side of the story.
"Don't worry about it," the cop said, according to Wallingford. "We'll handle it."
But one witness who agreed to talk on the condition of anonymity swears that Silva didn't do anything to provoke Wallingford.
"It was not a bar fight," the witness says. "There was only one injured party."
Also on the hook for Silva's injuries are the Nomad and its owner, Smith & Hance Entertainment. The lawsuit, which is seeking $100,000 in damages, accuses both entities of negligence for having hired Wallingford as a bouncer. To make the case, attorneys point to his conviction record.
The rapper isn't shy about his criminal past -- aggravated armed robbery (2002), lying to cops (2004), disorderly conduct (2005), DUI (2006), marijuana possession (2007) -- and deals with those demons on his debut album, Whittier Alliance.
Yet he claims that's all behind him. He's been sober, he says, for seven years. Now he has two sons and a second chance.
"I'm not gonna front," Wallingford says. "There's been times when I fucked up. This was not an instance when I fucked up."
-- Email Jesse Marx at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @marxjesse
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