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Just before dawn on May 13 a full-moon Saturday John Williams, a popular 31-year-old bouncer at the Washington Avenue nightclub Mansion, was stabbed in the heart while trying to break up a fight. He died at 5:26 a.m. on the sidewalk the sidewalk where he had stood in his black suit, behind a red velvet rope for years.
It was Miami Beach's first homicide of 2006.
Two other young men were seriously injured. Marco Gomez and Edwin Eshesimua, both 27 years old and of Miami Beach, had been at Mansion all evening, chillin' and dancing to hip-hop and pop music. Gomez received four stab wounds: two in the back, near his kidney; one in the stomach; and another in his throat. The fight left Eshesimua with a severed pinkie, which was successfully reattached.
The weekend marked the popular club's second anniversary, and the young men had just left when the fight erupted. "We were just waiting for the valet to bring our car around," Gomez says of the moments leading up to the deadly fight. "There was just this random fender bender [in front of the club]."
After the accident, a passenger in another vehicle became frustrated. "One of [them] gets out of the car and starts yelling, 'Move this fucking car!' and starts throwing punches at the other driver," Gomez reports.
"It happened really quick," Eshesimua adds. "We have no history with them, we didn't know the guys. I never even saw the knife."
Gomez and Eshesimua say they had no beef with the men; they simply wanted to go home. "I started getting stabbed and I didn't even know it," Gomez says. "There were three of them and two of us."
Then Williams who had completed his shift at 5:00 a.m. but was still hanging around stepped in to try to calm the melee.
"The bouncer did not throw a single punch. He had his arms out to break up the fight," Gomez says. "The way he went down was the scariest thing I had ever seen. I think a lot of people, including the police, were in shock." The entire knife-fight was recorded on a witness's Treo cellular phone.
The attacker, police say, was Trevor Grant, age 33, a cook from West Palm Beach. A public-records search shows Grant has a history of misdemeanor crimes possession of cannabis and minor traffic infractions but nothing that indicates he's capable of murder.
After the scuffle, Grant jumped into his friend's car and then when cops stopped that vehicle fled on foot. After a police K-9 cornered him, he grabbed the dog by the neck and tried to choke him. The four-leg officer shook himself loose and bit Grant on the right arm.
Grant later confessed to "holding the knife and swinging it at the victims," and was charged with second-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, injury to a police dog, and resisting arrest without violence. He was taken to Miami-Dade County jail.
Also arrested were Glenn Walker, who told police he is a 24-year-old model from New York, and Elbin Castro, age 30, who said he works at a New York recording studio. Both men, who were in the car with Grant, were charged with being accessories to the murder.
Mansion spokesperson Vanessa Menkes pointed out that the incident did not happen in the club and that Williams, whose shift ended at 5:00 a.m., was not on the clock at that time. "What John did it was so heroic." Menkes said, her voice heavy with grief.
Both Gomez and Eshesimua say Williams wasn't like the other bouncers; he didn't have the attitude that usually goes with the job title. "John was superfriendly. It sounds cliché, but he was the nicest guy," Gomez says. "I don't hesitate to say that he saved my life. My heart goes out to his family."
Adds Eshesimua: "A lot of the bouncers there are assholes, but he was not one of them. Some of the other men in black [suits] were out there that morning, but he was the only one to step in."
Murders are rare on the Beach these days. The city went four and a half months without a killing this year, and in 2005 there were only four. That's down from the more violent days of the late Nineties fourteen people died violently in 1997. The drop is likely attributable to increased police patrols, more affluent citizens, and decreased crime throughout the region.
Which makes the violence that followed the May 13 event even more significant. At 3:15 a.m. Sunday, May 14, José Luna, age 28, and BG Aguirre, age 21, were charged with aggravated battery after Luna swung "an unknown sharp object" at another man, puncturing his stomach. The place: Mansion.
Eshesimua was not completely surprised to hear of the second attack. "We saw three or four arguments before us," he says. "It was a full moon, and I remember saying to Marco, 'Man, these people are crazy tonight.'"