Thursday, December 14, 2017
Public safety

Club photographer says pop star Chris Brown punched him after Tampa concert; no arrests made

TAMPA — Pop star Chris Brown has achieved Internet infamy once again in a familiar locale: the Tampa Bay area. A photographer at Aja Channelside told Tampa police that the singer punched him inside the club early Monday morning.

But so far the incident hasn't gone further than celebrity gossip websites. No arrests were made and Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty said there is no active investigation.

Brown, 27, was booked to appear at the club's "Chris Brown and Friends Official After Party" for a minimum of one hour following his Sunday evening concert at Amalie Arena. But the singer and his security guards spent less than five minutes at Aja.

Club photographer Bennie L. Vines Jr., 38, said Brown "sucker punched" him and then immediately left, according to a police report.

Vines said Brown's security told him to stop taking photos of the star when he arrived about 1 a.m. Vines told police that when Brown saw him snapping photos of the crowd, the singer jumped over a couch and punched him twice in the face, causing a small cut on his lip.

Brown was not at the club when officers arrived. All police have is Vines' account of the incident. If Vines wants to press charges, police said they would send the case to the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office to decide whether or not the case warrants prosecution.

Brown didn't interact with Aja's staff or club patrons before the alleged attack, and seemed in high spirits during his hour-long set at Amalie.

Tickets to the after party cost between $15 to $60, and attendees posted dozens of videos and photos to social media showing the moment Brown, wearing a red sweatshirt and baseball hat, allegedly attacked Vines.

Later, Brown went to The Drynk on South Howard Avenue, joining another after party hosted by Fabolous. Drynk manager Enrique DeJesus said Brown stayed at the club until it closed at 3 a.m. and was "just having a good time."

"He's done events with us before and always did a great job, very professional," DeJesus said. "He didn't seem like anything was wrong."

Brown was scheduled to appear at a Miami nightclub that night, and perform Tuesday in Jacksonville. Aja management posted a note to the club's Facebook page explaining what had happened, saying "assault charges were pressed and we are dealing with the proper authorities accordingly."

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"Incidents like the ones caused by Chris Brown and his team are very sad to see," the club's managers wrote. "After only a few minutes of being there, Chris Brown himself and his team assaulted our club photographer and proceeded to walk out of the venue. Aja Channelside and our employees apologize for the inconvenience."

FROM THE ARCHIVES:'tbt' photographer's lawsuit says R&B stars' guards beat him, took camera

Brown was paid $30,000 in advance for the appearance, and his contract with Aja neither addressed nor prohibited photography, the club's owners said.

Monday wasn't the first time Brown was accused of attacking a photographer in Tampa.

In 2008, Tampa Bay Times photographer Luis Santana filed a lawsuit against Brown alleging his bodyguards beat him and stole his camera. Santana settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

The following year, Brown pled guilty to felony assault charges filed by then-girlfriend Rhianna. He's been in and out of jail and rehab ever since, battling the courts for allegedly punching a man in 2013, beating his former manager in June, and sparking a police standoff before being arrested for threatening a woman with a gun in August. The cases have yet to be settled.

Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

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