Photo by Cattle Decapitation bassist Derek Engmann
Cattle Decapitation, a San Diego-based deathgrind band, had their set cut short after a knife-wielding man in the pit allegedly slashed another concertgoer's neck at a show in La Habra, CA this past Wednesday night. A group of concertgoers then dragged the knife-wielding man, identified by police as 30-year-old Adam Merrill, outside of La Habra 300 Bowl and beat him unconscious.
“Blood gushed out of his neck like a water hose,” according to Abraham Rangel, 25, who witnessed the brawl. The gash, although not life-threatening, had victim Dennis Salmeron, 27, leaving the show in an ambulance. Pools of blood could be found inside and outside of the venue. Merrill also ended up in the hospital from the beating he endured. After being treated, he was brought to La Habra Police Department and booked on assault with a deadly weapon charges, police said. According to postings on his Facebook, Salmeron spent the night in the hospital and received some stiches but is already out.
Several eyewitnesses who were standing right next to the fight say that tensions amongst crowd members started during the very first song of the set. According to the police report, a woman (who witnesses say was Merill’s girlfriend) struck Salmeron, who then hit her back. That’s when things got out of hand. One eyewitness recalled what he saw:
“Right next to me were three guys that didn't like it when moshers were bumping into them, and were pushing them away with an unnecessary force. Eventually one of them, a large, heavyset Mexican man, takes his shirt off to which we see on his chest 'suicidal' is tattooed in large letters, and on his back is tattooed "psycho Mexican," and he just lets loose in the pit. It seems like he is intentionally trying to hurt people. A couple of fist ights happened with him and a few other patrons, but nothing too serious at this point. The large Mexican man has been butting heads and fighting with this white guy that looks to be in his thirtiess and is wearing a Death shirt. I was trying to just enjoy the music and ignore the unnecessary violence, but what happened next was that the white guy’s girlfriend approached the heavyset shirtless man and tried smacking him, and after that he just punched her right in the face. A bunch of people jumped in at this point. It became a bit of a blur with all the people jumping in, but I did see the guy in the Death shirt with his arm raised in the air holding a knife. The next thing I saw was the shirtless man with a lot of blood running down his neck. At this point, the man with the knife was taken outside and beaten unconscious. He was being beaten throughout the night, but his big beating happened when he was dragged outside. The police arrived very quickly, followed by an ambulance and a fire truck.”
Rostam Zafar, 27, was working merch for Cattle Decapitation and saw a similar progression of events, although he didn't believe the man who was sucker punching people was the same one who got stabbed. “At one point, one guy started sucker punching people. Someone got bumped, he turned around to say that he wasn't trying to pit, then this sucker punch guy came out of nowhere and just socked him. This one girl went up to sucker punch guy and told him that he was at the wrong show. Then, you guessed it, he sucker punched her,” Zafar said.
Cattle Decapitation vocalist Travis Ryan, along with several other show goers, wondered where security was when the fighting broke out, and why they didn’t step in sooner. “How did the guy even get into the show? Isn’t there like a minor pat down at least?” Ryan said of Merrill’s ability to bring a knife into the show. “It wasn’t the safest of shows. Security didn’t really do anything, a lot of people were bitching about that. They were just nonexistent. But I saw guys walking around with security shirts on earlier.”
Ryan says one of his band’s main messages is one of personal responsibility, and the band is withholding any judgment about who was in the wrong and just feels lucky that everyone is alive. But after the fight, outside the venue, Ryan overheard Merrill’s girlfriend say something that “sobered him up.”
“I heard her say the words ‘That motherfucker is lucky I forgot to bring my gun tonight, because I’ve got a CCW (concealed carry weapon) and I would have shot him in the face," he recalls.
Cattle Decapitation could not see the bloody events transpiring in the several-hundred-person crowd from the stage, and continued to play through their set until the sound engineer approached Ryan and told the band to stop playing. In a video of the show (which does not show the actual stabbing) you can see the sound guy stopping the show and ushering the crowd out of what he referred to as “now a crime scene.” Ryan recalled the moment he knew the show was over:
“I see the guy coming at me, he’s walking up onstage so you see my face change to an, 'Oh god, what now motherfucker?’ kind of thing. So I’ve got this sour look on my face, like 'Here we go, I’m at a fucking bowling alley sick as a dog with the fucking flu playing through a stick PA and I hate these things because I have to battle my drummer who is going through these little fucking speakers.' I’m a technique driven vocalist so I obviously rely on amplification just like a guitar player would. So I’m like, 'Oh god now what?' and he says, “I need you to shut everything down, the cops are here.” And I’m like, “Okay, right now?” and I’m thinking the cops are here because the place is too rowdy and the owner wants to shut the show down early – we’ve had all that happen before. Then he goes “A guy got stabbed in the neck.' That’s when my face changed to “oh shit!” and I just said “that sounds like a good reason to stop. OK.” I turned around and said ‘Guys just cut it, we’re done.’ And then I handed the guy the mic and he explained what happened.”
The show, which was hosted by a dive bar inside a bowling alley in La Habra, Calif., ended immediately after the stabbing, which upset some fans who can be heard on a live video shouting “fuck that guy who got stabbed in the throat—fuck him!”