A dust-up over seating was at the heart of a bar confrontation that escalated into a shooting last year, according to details shared in court.
Robert Franklin St. Clair III, a bouncer at the now-defunct Legends Sports Bar, pleaded no contest last week to unlawful wounding in an altercation that left a customer hit by gunfire.
The victim survived, and special prosecutor Jessica Preston said he’s had no lingering medical problems caused by his injuries.
St. Clair, as part of a plea agreement, was sentenced to time served. He’s barred from working as a bouncer and must dispose of his guns.
The shooting was part of a series of events that began with St. Clair asking the customer to sit in a different spot, according to a recording of the Oct. 26 plea hearing.
The man was sitting at the bar in a place that staff apparently wanted to keep clear for servers submitting orders.
Defense attorney Tony Anderson said the patron wouldn’t move after being asked and given a warning. Preston said the man was confused as to why he was being told to move.
Witnesses said he didn’t threaten or touch St. Clair, she said. But the bouncer ordered him to leave and ended up discharging a canister of bear spray into his face.
The victim, vision blurred, went outside, followed by other customers in the busy bar who exited to escape the vapor of the spray.
St. Clair followed afterward, told the victim again to leave, shoved him by the throat and sprayed him a second time, Preston said.
The crowd of customers was yelling at this point, she said, and people heard someone shout: gun. The victim, still affected by the spray, knew St. Clair was carrying a pistol in a holster and so pulled out his own handgun that he had under his shirt tucked into his waistband, she said.
Anderson — who in an earlier hearing had signaled that self-defense would be raised if the shooting charge went to trial — said security video showed that the man pointed his gun at the bouncer.
St. Clair fired his weapon. The other man returned fire only after being struck, Preston said. Investigators would find 10 bullet casings from the .40-caliber handgun that St. Clair was carrying, and six casings from the .45 caliber of the victim.
The customer, a Roanoke man who was 29 at the time, was the only person hit. He also initially faced charges over the June 2020 fracas but that was later dropped.
St. Clair, 57, of Roanoke, was charged with malicious wounding, which was amended to felony unlawful wounding as part of his plea agreement. Both sides said in court the agreement was reached to avoid the uncertainty of trial.
Roanoke Circuit Judge Chris Clemens, in keeping with the agreement, sentenced him to five years, suspended after time served.
St. Clair had been released on bond for a portion of time since his arrest last year. Online court records indicate he was incarcerated for a total of about five weeks while his case was pending.
His bond was revoked in September after he was seen carrying guns in violation of court conditions. He told the judge last week that he’s since gotten rid of all his firearms and no longer has any in his home.
He’ll be on supervised probation for the next three years, and could face reinstatement of his suspended jail time if he violates probation conditions.