Tom Chavez directs a stern look at a young kid who has just plopped into a seat on the patio, casually puffing on a cigarette.
“What are you doing? How old are you?” he asks.
The kid looks like he’s been caught stealing. “Eighteen,” the kid says.
“How long you been smoking?”
“Since I was, like, 15? I can show you my ID.”
Chavez scoffs and shakes his head. “I don’t care about your ID, it’s that habit, man,” he says. “You gotta stop smoking, it’ll kill ya.”
It’s the kind of thing that Chavez — a 50-something Navy retiree most everyone calls “TC” — has become known for in the past three years as the owner of the Hop!, an all-ages music venue just north of the Monroe Street Bridge. The club, usually open seven days a week, is one of the only places in Spokane to host shows for the under-21 set.
Under the eyes of Chavez and his sons, the Hop! has never been known for violence. So Chavez was shocked when he got a late night phone call on Sunday, Sept. 8, that someone had been shot and killed in the parking lot behind his venue. Spokane police say it was the first time officers had needed to respond to an incident at the venue.
“We pretty much went from zero — on the violence scale — we went from zero to 10 in five seconds,” he says.
The Hop! was scheduled to host an afterparty that night for the fans of San Francisco rapper Messy Marv, slated to perform at nearby Lincoln Center. The rapper was never supposed to appear at the Hop!, according to Chavez — it was just an afterparty. When Messy Marv failed to show at Lincoln Center and word spread that he might be at the Hop! event, Chavez says his staff noticed the crowd seemed tense. But the Hop! was full of familiar faces — including Kalen Bedford, Carlos Fuentes and Julian Morrison — who had been to events there before.
According to a Spokesman-Review report, Morrison exited the Hop! into the parking lot east of the venue and was met by Bedford and Fuentes and a flurry of bullets. When the smoke cleared, Morrison was dead. Spokane Police took Bedford and Fuentes into custody last Wednesday. The two face charges of first-degree murder and first-degree assault. Police issued a press release stating that “detectives believe that the shooting incident is gang related and that both the victim and the suspects are gang members.”
The Hop! has long been known as a place where anyone — from Juggalos to gothic DJs — can play. But Chavez says this event has put him on edge.
“It makes us more apprehensive about doing certain types of events,” he says. “I’m going to be looking at my calendar and I already know a couple I’m probably going to cancel.”
“I don’t want to sound like I’m blaming any particular crowd,” he says. “I want everything to settle down a bit. I’m doing that kind of for the whole picture. I’m doing it for us and our relations with the city.”