By Jason A. Smith
One man is dead, and another charged with his murder, after the two men fought in the parking lot of an area bar over the weekend, authorities said.
Charles Edward Brown, 44, of Jonesboro is in the Henry County Jail charged with malice murder, felony murder, and three counts of aggravated assault in connection with the death of Ryan Gilliam, 22, of McDonough.
McDonough Police said the incident took place Sunday, just after 3 a.m., outside the Irish Bred Pub at 716 Ga. Highway 155 South.
Authorities said Brown instigated the confrontation with Gilliam.
During a probable cause hearing in Henry County Magistrate Court Monday, McDonough Police Detective Art Sparks said Gilliam and several friends were inside the bar at closing time when they were asked to leave.
"Mr. Gilliam made a remark of some kind to the waitress, and she didn't really think a whole lot about it," said Sparks. "His girlfriend apologized to her ... and his party left."
Sparks said Brown then approached the waitress, and asked her if anyone had "given her any trouble." When the woman told the suspect what had happened, Sparks said, Brown reacted.
"She told him it was some guy in a white shirt making a remark," said Sparks. "She said Mr. Brown stated, 'I'll take care of it.' He then followed the party out to the parking lot."
Sparks cited statements from approximately 20 witnesses at the scene who reported seeing Brown tell Gilliam and his friends to get off the property of the establishment.
"They said they were already leaving," Sparks said. "Mr. Brown began to follow them across the parking lot, at which point an argument ensued between Mr. Brown, the victim, and possibly one other man."
The argument reportedly turned physical, resulting in bouncers coming out of the bar to break up the altercation. Sparks said Gilliam and his friends prepared to leave the parking lot when they were again chased by Brown.
Sparks said Brown pulled a 4- to 6-inch knife from his pocket. "People all over the parking lot saw it. We believe the victim tackled Mr. Brown to keep him from getting to his friend," Sparks said.
Sparks said Gilliam suffered stab wounds to the back and chest, and a cut to the throat. As Sparks spoke in court, family members and friends of the victim struggled to contain their emotions.
Police said bouncers and witnesses attempted to stop Brown, and one witness suffered a cut on his hand as a result. Police said a bouncer then placed handcuffs on Brown, and restrained him until authorities arrived at the scene.
Authorities said Gilliam was pronounced dead a short time later at Henry Medical Center. Sparks said although the official cause of death had not been determined as of Monday morning, Gilliam apparently bled to death.
Sparks said Brown was arrested and taken to the McDonough Police Department for approximately four hours of questioning. He said Brown initially claimed he was not involved in Gilliam's death, and that he had gone to the parking lot at the request of the waitress at the bar.
"Mr. Brown at first denied having anything to do with a knife," said Sparks. "He said he went into the parking lot, and was jumped."
Sparks said Brown later admitted to owning the knife, and stabbing Gilliam.
"His only explanation was that he was jumped, that he was trying to get everybody off him, and was swinging the knife," Sparks said.
Authorities said the waitress told police she did not ask Brown to eject anyone. According to Sparks, the waitress said Brown had worked at the pub in the past, but she was unsure whether he was employed there at the time of the incident.
A woman who answered the phone at the Irish Bred Pub Monday and identified herself as the manager declined to comment on the case.
Sparks said a receipt from the bar on the night of Gilliam's death reveals Brown purchased more than $32 worth of alcohol on the night in question. He said he does not know how much Brown had to drink that night, and added that he appeared to be sober when he was being questioned.
Judge Martin Jones bound the charges against Brown over to Henry County Superior Court, where the issue of bond will be addressed at a later date.
Harold Gilliam, Ryan Gilliam's father, was in court to hear details of his son's death. He said some of the information given in the hearing "conflicts" with what he has been told by bouncers and others who were at the scene.
"According to them, my son and his friend were chased out by ... security [personnel], and they were tackled to the ground," Harold Gilliam said. "I just think [Brown] had a mission to do this, or he wouldn't have hit him where he did."
Harold Gilliam said he wants the management of the bar to be held "accountable" for what happened to his son.
McDonough Police are continuing to investigate the case. Police Chief Preston Dorsey said he is hopeful additional witnesses will come forward.
"The more people who saw this incident, they can give us a clearer understanding of what really happened," he said.
Anyone with information on the case was asked to contact the McDonough Police Department at (770) 957-1218.