BAY CITY, MI — A Bay City man is accused of trying to kill another man in a shooting that followed a bar fight in Bay City’s Midland Street Historic District. His attorney, though, says his client acted in self-defense.
Jordan A. Ashton, 29, on the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 15, appeared via Zoom from the jail before Bay County District Judge Timothy J. Kelly for arraignment. The judge arraigned Ashton on eight counts — single counts of assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to cause great bodily harm less than murder, felon in possession of a firearm, and carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent, plus four counts of felony firearm.
At the arraignment, defense attorney Marcus Garske said he was retained to represent Ashton shortly after the shooting occurred on Aug. 16. They were waiting on notification on the issuance of charges when Hampton Township police arrested Ashton about 4 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 14, sitting in a parked car behind Hampton Towne Centre, Garske said.
“Had we known the charges were out there, your Honor, we would have voluntarily turned him in,” Garske told the judge. “He’s been here, he’s been ready to face these charges so I don’t believe he is a flight risk.”
Garske asked for his client be released on a personal recognizance or 10-percent bond.
Kelly said Ashton has a criminal record that includes juvenile adjudications. As an adult, Ashton has convictions of second-degree home invasion and larceny in a building from 2008 and of unlawfully driving away a motor vehicle from 2010, Michigan Department of Corrections’ records state. Ashton was sentenced to two to 15 years in prison in September 2010 and the MDOC discharged him in July 2018.
Kelly set bond at $75,000 cash-surety.
Garske spoke with MLive after the arraignment concluded.
“There’s always two sides to every story,” Garske said. Ashton “hasn’t been able to give his side yet. His side will still come out. We anticipate showing he acted in defense of himself and others.”
Garske declined to elaborate.
Police have said Ashton’s charges are in connection with a shooting that occurred in the early morning hours of Aug. 16. Bay City Department of Public Safety Capt. Nathan Webster said the incident began with a fight at The Crowne Pub, 605 E. Midland St. Afterward, a shooting occurred in the 100 block of South Linn Street.
Responding police found a 27-year-old man suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, Webster said. The captain said it’s not believed Ashton and the victim knew each other beforehand.
“As to the defense allegation (of self-defense), we conducted our investigation and the Bay County Prosecutor’s Office has issued the charges they feel are warranted,” Webster added.
The victim survived the shooting and is expected to recover, Webster said.
Earlier this summer, two brothers ages 32 and 21 were stabbed outside The Crowne Pub. Police reports contained in court documents indicate the brothers had been inside the bar in the early morning of July 20 when two other patrons, identified by police as 23-year-old Daniel J. Aikens and 21-year-old Terrence M. Wainwright, accosted them.
Police arrested Aikens and Wainwright within hours of the stabbings. Both were initially charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and assault with a dangerous weapon, though Wainwright’s charges were later dismissed and replaced with a misdemeanor count of assault and battery.
Records from Bay County Central Dispatch indicate that between June 8 — the day bars and restaurants could reopen for dine-in service following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s shelter-at-home order — and Aug. 19, there have been 136 calls for service between the 400 and 900 blocks of East Midland Street and the surrounding blocks. For comparison, in the same date range and geographic area, Central Dispatch received 109 calls for service in 2019 and 78 in 2018.
Bay County Sheriff Troy R. Cunningham has said that reports of stabbings and gun violence have escalated throughout the county in 2020. From Jan. 1 through Aug. 19, there have been 237 gun and stabbing reports, compared to 141 for the same date range in 2019.
In an Aug. 17 Bay City Commission meeting, it was agreed more police presence would focus on the Midland Street area on weekend nights to hopefully curtail crime.
“They are down there every Friday and Saturday night now,” said City Manager Dana L. Muscott on Wednesday, Sept. 16. “It has been very peaceful.”
While the city is currently paying the overtime costs for the increased patrols, Public Safety Director Michael J. Cecchini said at the Aug. 17 meeting that he believed the increase in area violence could be connected to the coronavirus pandemic, thus reimbursement through funding sources such as special COVID-19 grants through FEMA or the Department of Justice could be used.
“I believe that a lot of this is COVID-19 related and that we can put in for reimbursement on those overtime costs,” Cecchini at the time. “Part of the issue is that we have the patios and the street closures to accommodate the businesses so that they can manage the social distancing and comply with the governor’s orders. I think a lot of the social interaction that’s going on in some the violence is related to COVID-19.”
Muscott on Wednesday said the plan is for the city to pursue that reimbursement.
“We are going to try to turn some of the overtime in to the FEMA grant that we have,” she said. “We will turn it in with all of the other costs we’ve incurred with the outside dining throughout the city.”
A special event permit for the Midland Street Social District allows for the usage of the 500 and 600 blocks of Midland Street, and Linn Street between Midland Street and Vermont Street, for outdoor events and includes permission for a stage to be set up. The permit was to expire on Sept. 7, but has been renewed through Oct. 31, Muscott said.
First Ward Commissioner Jesse Dockett had initially introduced a resolution during the Aug. 17 meeting to revoke the special permit. He withdrew it after Cecchini and Midland Street business owner Jay Samborn addressed the commission.
“The street closure and what it’s intention was is actually operating perfectly and we do have some late night activity that we have discussed with the chief and with the city manager about trying to implement some tactics to deter some of the people who are here, maybe not even as customers, that are even out here as opportunists or people that are causing problems,” Samborn said at the meeting.
Samborn informed the commission during the meeting that he and other business owners met earlier that day to develop a plan going forward. In a nutshell, the plan involves more bouncers and security as well as heightened awareness for the Midland Street merchants as a cooperative group.
“I just wanted to make sure that Midland Street was going to be safe,” Dockett told MLive on Sept. 16. “I felt that Mr. Samborn’s plan in conjunction with the chief’s plan was adequate to ensure safety for our residents and visitors.”
Cecchini added that in the month or so that extra police patrols have been in the area, he believes they’ve been successful in curbing the violence.
Ashton remains lodged in the Bay County Jail as of Sept. 16. He is to appear for a preliminary examination at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 30.
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