Police Confront Rise in Violence in Downtown San Angelo


A rise in violence on the downtown drag has prompted San Angelo Police to increase patrols on the weekend, with the singular objective of cleaning up the crime before more people fall victim and a higher toll of decreased traffic is levied upon local businesses.

Danger, drunken brawls and a careless crowd have started to gather in the center of San Angelo’s entertainment district, posing a risk to night-out patrons and damping the droves that used to congregate in social settings.

“We started noticing it recently, and I’ll tell you what the problem is,” Police Chief Tim Vasquez said with conviction. “The problem is when you have establishments giving away drinks at a very, very low price and then over serving, it creates those types of problems.

“Used to, you could see all kinds of people walking the streets at night and having a decent time, but now we see some intimidation, we see fights happening and again, over-served people being released out into the street and causing trouble.”

On July 12, a wave of people flowing out of Wise Guy’s bar in the heart of downtown prompted Fuentes Bar Manager Ryan Herrera to shut his doors early for the first time in four years. Police there called for backup, and had encountered multiple victims in at least two altercations. Two were injured and loaded into ambulances. By the end of the incident early Sunday morning, three were behind bars.

“I have a city marshal that works my door on Saturday,” Herrera said. “They were looking for somewhere else to go and even the manager from Fat Boss’s said ‘You know, hey, no one else is coming in’. We closed down [too]. I basically said that the people that are in here can stay…They started coming this way, like waves of people, and a couple came in and I go, ‘you know what, shut the doors’. I’ve never had to do that, never.”

A few days later, a man was shot and injured downtown near the intersection of S. Chadbourne St. and Twohig. The same suspects who were arrested in the Wise Guys brawl days prior were named suspects in the shooting. The next weekend, two more fights broke out at Wise Guys leading to three arrests.

Herrera said that recently, the owners of various downtown establishments met with one of the assistant police chiefs to discuss the widening problem. Business owners, gastro service workers and managers have all felt the spike in violence, and there is a fairly loud consensus as to where that problem is coming from.

“I’m not going to say for sure it’s one bar,” said Rex Rogers, owner of The Deadhorse Bar and Rock and Roll Lounge, “but it does seem to coincide with [Wise Guys] opening. We never had that kind of trouble down here before at all. I mean, at all.”

Rex Rogers has been a mainstay on S. Chadbourne Street since 2007, when he and Lanie Daniels opened up The Deadhorse, blazing a path that set the stage for nightlife development that continues today. Rogers said he first began to notice a change between three and six months ago, but recently things have started to spin out of control.

“Something’s going on over there, whether it’s over serving, their security, if they’re rude to the customers—I don’t know,” Herrera agreed, again referencing Wise Guys. “You’ve got a lot of stuff going on over there and you don’t hear about that going on anywhere else.”

While over serving and dirt cheap drinks have been cited by Vasquez and employees of most downtown establishments as contributors to the rise in crime, another issue has been brought up on the matter of security. Most downtown bars hire off-duty police officers to work their doors on weekend nights as security, and up until recently, Wise Guys has only employed bouncers. Some have suggested that the volatile mix of cheap alcohol in excess and a lack of authority have combined to create a combustible environment, one that could be avoided with thoughtful business practices.

“We’ve always had SAPD working with us here at our bar, so we’ve never really had problems here at our establishment,” Rogers said. “We have noticed, obviously, more problems downtown within the last three to six months, but SAPD and TABC have both talked to us and they’re working on the problem.”

Henry Ramos, the owner at Wise Guys, said he didn’t wish to “be a part of any more drama”. He attributed the perceived rise in violence to San Angelo LIVE!, stating that the report on the brawl that took place outside his establishment was riddled with lies and denying that there has been any real increase in crime.

“What y’all are doing is changing the perception to the public, which is not true,” he pointed a finger at San Angelo LIVE! “We don’t sell candy; we sell alcohol. And when you sell alcohol, the people[‘s] dynamic changes. They think different. Us, as a bar owner, we have to be responsible and make sure that nothing takes place and we’re following every rule.”

Henry did address the issue of security, stating that he budgets nearly $1,000 per week for bouncers and officers, a demand he is meeting due to the large capacity of the bar.

“We have six bouncers and three cops,” he said on Thursday evening. “Moving forward, we recognized the need to add more security because our establishment is a lot larger than any other establishment downtown. We’re not an 80 [person] capacity. When you’ve got 1,000 people in one environment, a lot of different personalities, of course things are going to happen. And this is the thing: we are not the only bar downtown that generates fights. Every bar has fights.”

On Friday, however, Chief Vasquez told a different story. While Wise Guys did, at one time, employ San Angelo Police Officers as security, that relationship came to an end long before Henry claimed to employ them on Thursday evening.

“Our officers aren’t allowed to work there anymore,” Chief Vasquez said. “I pulled them out last weekend. They were working there but because of the issues that we’re facing and the type of policing that needs to be done, we’re not going to be working that establishment.”

Henry also asserted that while over serving is an issue in all bars, he does take measures to ensure that his staff are watching patrons and attempts to correct bartenders who may be pouring a little too generously. The problems his bar faces, he said, are not foreign to other establishments.

“Every bar in San Angelo, Texas, has [special] drink prices,” he said. “We just follow the rules that everybody else does. Every bartender in San Angelo over serves. Everybody does the same thing. Yes, it happens in our bar, I have to admit it, it happens in every other bar too.”

But other members of the gastro industry feel differently, and many are frustrated with the bad reputation the heart of the city is getting and the effect that reputation is having on business.

“People go there (to Wise Guys) to drink, drink, drink, drink, drink, because it’s cheap. It’s cheap on the weekends, cheap to drink. It brings a lot of business downtown, but you don’t see fights anywhere else,” Herrera said. “If somebody comes in [to Fuentes] and they appear to be intoxicated, you know, we don’t serve them. We offer them chips and hot sauce and water or whatever, maybe a coke or tea, but we let them know if they’ve been elsewhere and they’re going overboard.”

Another bartender from a different establishment who wished to remain anonymous said that her tips have dropped by nearly $100-200 on the weekends recently, simply because people don’t want to come downtown and worry about being victimized.

“It is impacting our business,” Rogers said. “I would say the foot traffic downtown has gone down considerably with the crimes that have been committed and reported and some of the element that have been coming down. I’ll also say that in the last week I’ve already seen a big change in the climate downtown since the police have stepped up their efforts.”

Confronted with the fact that numerous employees in downtown businesses have openly stated they believe his establishment is contributing to the trouble, Henry shrugged it off.

“Well, of course. We have a thousand-plus capacity, and when you reach into people’s pocket, it’s going to hurt them,” he said, naming himself the “new kid on the block”. “I’m not here to compete with nobody; I’m just here to conduct business. I’m not here to attract punks or low lifes or nothing like that. Every business has its ups and downs.”

Since July 13, Chief Vasquez has been authorizing overtime for a team of four to six officers on the weekends, tasked with circulating the bars and checking for signs of intoxication in an effort to prevent the problems. While a very loud consensus from those who work downtown has echoed concern over Wise Guys specifically, Vasquez said his officers are focusing on a couple of establishments that seem to be causing a problem, while circulating the area to mitigate the violence.

“Obviously we still have some real good establishments downtown that aren’t causing any problems for us, but the ones that are are the ones that we’re going to pay special attention to,” he said. “And I’ve given my officers the ability to use zero tolerance in a location that has become problematic for us.”

Additionally, Vasquez is working to get additional lighting in some of downtown’s darker alleyways and officers are starting to walk the bars on Sunday through Thursday as part of their regular duty assignment.

So far, feedback has been positive from bar owners, who appreciate the PD’s effort to clean up the area.

“In the last week I’ve already seen a big change in the climate downtown since the police have stepped up their efforts,” Rogers said. “It’s been better and I feel pretty confident that things will turn around.”

Without enough officers to regularly assign patrol of the downtown area, Vasquez said he’ll continue to authorize the overtime until this portion of the city has been cleaned up. The SAPD is working closely with TABC on this matter.

“There’s a lot of good people that have invested time and money—in creating business downtown, and it frustrates me to see their businesses hurt because of the behaviors of the people that are coming downtown,” Vasquez said. “We’ve been contacted by people downtown—by visitors, by other establishments—in regard to some of the behavior …some of the businesses are hurting because people are afraid to go down there. It’s our primary mission right now to clean up that area. Our citizens don’t appreciate it, we don’t appreciate it, and we’re going to deal with it. This is something that we’re going to do until we clean up downtown.”

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Imagine that, bringing bars and alcohol into downtown simply attracts the drunks and trash. Simply pass an ordinance banning alcohol sales and turn those joints into coffee shops with games, entertainers, movies and food and those drunks, trash, gang-bangers and motorcycle club members will be replaced with decent people.

wise guys is a very rowdy bar. there are so many people that are just stumbling around drunk inside and bartenders continue to serve them. i used to be a bartender so i know the ins and outs. the reason there has been a major increase in violence downtown has been because of the crowds that come from wise guys. if you arrive early....its pretty fun. but once the bartenders start over serving customers and the tough guys start their nonsense around 9pm. thats when all the drama and violence starts. wise guys does not have SAPD in their bar nor do they have enough bouncers to control the chaos. me and my husband went one time and that will be our last time. wise guys is a very irresponsible establishment.

I have security. REAL security. SAPD officers have more authority and knowledge than a bouncer or a rent-a-cop. As Rex stated, he has very little problems. I have officers every Friday and I rarely have any issues. Hire a cop or lose business....simple as that!

Good thing that San Angelo has more churches than any other city it's size so they enforce their Christian values on others.

Take a look at the history of Christianity.

Its not the bars nor is it the alcohol. It the loser/thugs downtown. Until Mr Vaquez and our local judical system starts squashing these thigs its just going to keep happening here or there. The bars could all shut down and we will still have loser/thugs trolling our city.

1) When I think of "violence" or violent crime, I think of armed robbery, rape, and murder. Not bar fights. 2) I love that the rejuvenated downtown area has a mix of shops, restaurants, bars, live music, and dancing. 3) Why are we treating Wise Guys with kid gloves? Other establishments have had their licenses yanked for serving intoxicated patrons. Do we have to wait for another DUI-related death for TABC to act? It sounds like they could write them up any Saturday night.

Finally, it wasn't just the "violence" that killed the vibe for Deep Ellum in Dallas, or 6th Street in Austin. It was an overbearing police presence in response to it. If these bar owners are feeling a drop off in business now, just wait. Reasonable adults aren't afraid to go downtown for a drink or night out for fear of getting jacked up by punks. But they will avoid it like the plague if they fear arrest for having a good time.

I'm surprised they haven't borrowed (unttil one is payed for by the city) an armored vehicle yet, parked it in the middle of chadbourne and just start spraying thugs with bullets? What's the hold up? Might be more difficult with open carry......

S St, Sat, 08/01/2015 - 16:09

It seems to me that violence has increased across San Angelo, not just downtown. I read about drive-by shootings and murders near weekly on this site inch have nothing to do with downtown bars. And correctly stated, all of the bars downtown or anywhere else in town over serve. It's my understanding TABC makes the rounds downtown regularly and according to Tim V he just pulled the cops from working at Wise Guys last week...so why haven't they stopped the perceived crime for the past months? The problem is the volume of people Wise Guys holds. Adding 1000 people drinking to an overcrowded area is going to create more tension, but that's for the police to handle, so get to it Tim. As for other bars complaining and pointing fingers, of course they are, their customers are all at Wise Guys!

T F, Sat, 08/01/2015 - 16:13

I've been to this bar....I do not encourage you go into this bar without a bulletproof vest or without all your vaccinations. I felt like I was in the hood strictly and saw nothing but people who wanted to start trouble. As much as I want to see happy business owners thrive downtown, I will have to say that who you attract is what you will bring into your doors. You need to change wise guys from the inside. Start playing country music and I SWEAR they will scatter like roaches! Trust me, I've seen it happen.But before you do that, work closely with Tim Vasquez and have a warrant bust on the people leaving so we can throw the people with warrants into jail.Just say "oh! I didn't know they were gunna do that". You will save your bar and make the streets of downtown safe once again :) I hope your business works out and you start seeing a difference! Heck! I might even step into your doors once again! Good luck!

Pretty sure violence surged when the Midnight Rodeo opened up too in the area of its location. If they are called thugs and losers downtown, what they call them over there? Wise Guys is still new. I have all the confidence in the world that the SAPD will get a hold of the new crime wave, or the same crime, just reported more exclusively by San Angelo Live.

I have lived most of my life in a big city. This type of behavior has to be dowsed. Small communities have to be vigilant. as well as the PD, to squash this crap. Come down hard! Spank these mo-fo's! Its the only way.

A few days ago a couple of girls got jumped in the bathroom at Fiddlestrings. That bar, for its part, is doing everything it can to cover up the incident. Probably don't want any more bad press after that guy was stabbed there a couple months back.

The moral of the story: don't partake in the San Angelo nightlife.

At a minimum, the name of this bar connotates images of violence, as it is associated with old school "mafioso" and gangsters. As such, the first question any reasonable person would/should be asking themselves, let alone fellow business owners, is what kind of person developed this business concept in the first place? The next question is how can a city council or powers responsible thereof approve of such an establishment opening that is sure to attract patrons "of a different persuasion"? How do other organizations involved in opening a business in San Angelo, i.e. economic development boards, planning commissions, incentive agencies, etc. give a green light? Furthermore, if it is the goal of said powers that be to attract more people to downtown, and ultimately develop said area for hospitable lving conditions for retiress, families, etc. then why do these types of bsinesses appear to begin with? Is it all about turning a blind eye for tax revenue for the city, or operating capital budgets for organizations involved with supporting businesses to open? Where's the responsibility/accountability? Adding more patrols, etc. to remedy this problem is merely playing with symptoms and not cures. Of course, the media bares responsibility in anything, or even nothing, for that matter, that they choose to report on, as they're own powers that be have led to the demise of our society in a myriad of sensationalistic ways. As such, why doesn't the media become proactive, instead of reactive? Sure, Live has carved it's own nitch by reporting on "other" stories, but why didn't the author of this organization confront any of the organizations charged with downtown development about the type of imagry such a name displays and what it ultimately attracts? Where is their own accountability in this process? Also, we can see the author of this article has spent time living abroad in Europe. She should know or has probably at least seen people of all ages drinking acohol late into the night in the parking lots of small, medium and large major oil company gas stations, such as Shell and Exxon. It's legal, and theirs no violence. And, since she attending college there, she probably was in attendance at a few parties, or visited bars there. She probably never witnessed one bar fight. So, to the people who claim cheap drinks fuels violent events, I be to differ. The culture is what it is. By the way, if a "Fat Boss" can open, is a "Skinny Intern" also possible? If not, would this be a case of reverse discrimination? What's the average weight of a fat boss, their owners, or aynone that has the power to approve or disapprove business permits downtown? Just asking...........

Our decision to cover bar fight isn’t that difficult to discern. A regular ‘ol bar fight broken up by a bouncer isn’t really newsworthy. Some bar fights broken up by an off duty police officer may not be either. A bar fight where the police call for backup three times, a large crowd gathers in the street, one of the agitators is knocked down on the ground in front of the bar, secondary fights break out in the street, and two or three are taken on the hospital is newsworthy. Along with all of that, when the suspects involved in the fight are arrested, it’s newsworthy.

Likewise, a stabbing or shooting is also newsworthy. We’ve had a few of those.

There are bar fights we know about that we haven’t covered too. At a non-downtown bar this past Thursday night, patrons were throwing chairs and a 22-year-old girl was supposedly stabbed in the melee. Ambulances were dispatched. When we looked into it further, there was no stabbing and the ambulance left empty, thankfully. We didn’t cover it.

LIVE! didn’t make a name for itself by covering niche stories. We did so by aggressively pursuing mainstream news long ignored by the competition.


How deeply did you look into the Thursday night incident? Because the Fiddlestrings "fight" was a lot more than just a bar fight. Two girls were ambushed and assaulted in the bathroom by a group of four women, the men that came with said women fought off anyone who attempted to help, and the establishment lied to the police to avoid bad publicity about it. To me, this whole incident seems newsworthy.


Thank you for your response and clarifying what's reportable, not reportable. I can see the value placed on the "escalation factor". I'd also like to thank you for providing a much-needed counterweight to the regional news competition. This should allow for not only a different and fresh perspective when covering events, but also, as you have stated, a chance to cover mainstream news--and hopefully more in depth. Live has covered a fair amount of violence perculating on our streets recently. Live is also covering the APC story to see if the council has the political and financial will to purchase such a vehicle, which will protect police and other first responders, in the event of more dangerous stand-offs--a problem that is rising in frequency in SA. When taking a step back, I can see a different form of escalation going on, and I'm wondering if Live can possibly rise to the occasion and be a media source that can also operate proactively and not reactively. As such, is it possible Live can host an event or Q&A attended by any local, county and state stakeholders charged with ensuring safety on our streets--i.e. to see what's the cause of the increase in violence and try to find ways to remedy the situation? Afterall, the level of violence is onl going to increase further.

What is the criteria for reporting on the Paxton indictment? No weapons? No alcohol? No crowd?

If he was indicted at the Tom Green County Courthouse, we'd be all over it.

But it was in Dallas, so...



Happy? No. A link at the bottom of the page in the comments section is hardly a place to "somewhat" report on the felony indictment, brought on by the Texas Rangers, of the Attorney General of the Great State of Texas.

Truth is truth - if you're going to have an establishment that holds 1000+ people - then you HAVE to be the strictest game in town PERIOD. You can't cater to everyone and want to be known as the place that takes everyone and not expect the trouble they are having. You can't expect the officers to risk their lives working on their nights off to save your butt when you are knowingly contributing to the problems. Like it or not, a place that size needs a dress code or at least not an "anything goes" code, you need SECURITY not "bouncers" and those security people need to be about the job and not trying to hook up or turn their eyes because it's a buddy acting up or drunk. You need to monitor your bar staff and drinkers and not over serve. You've got to make sure you are not letting people in that are obviously already under the influence. A huge priority should be to have a good working relationship with the SAPD and TABC - without that, you are a case waiting to happen. It can be done, that club could be turned around and productive - BUT it will take a lot of changes starting with management and staff and there will be a money loss initially. What they need to decide is it worth it to lose some money now and be open in a year or closed down with a yanked license and waiting for a court case when someone gets killed. It's not a matter of if, it's when.

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