Victim improving after bar assault

A 40-year-old Port Orchard man is improving after being punched and knocked unconscious at a downtown bar March 6.

A spokeswoman at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle said Friday that the victim was now in “satisfactory condition” and is no longer in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.

Jacob R. Whitford, 26, was arrested and booked into Kitsap County Jail for two counts of assault following the attack. In Kitsap County Superior Court, he pleaded not-guilty to one count of second-degree assault.

According to the Port Orchard Police Department, the incident occurred around 9 p.m. on March 6 at Slip 45, a restaurant and bar on Bay Street that opened last year.

POPD Commander Geoff Marti said a 911 call was placed at 9:05 p.m. and officers responded to the business “within a minute” to discover the victim unconscious and the suspect on his way out the back door.

“When the officers went to the back, there was a security person detaining the suspect on the ground,” Marti said, adding that the bar employee’s eye had been injured while struggling with the suspect, a 26-year-old Port Orchard man.

Marti said based on several witnesses’ accounts, the altercation was determined to have been the fault of the suspect, and did not involve any provocation or corresponding action on the victim’s part.

“It was not your typical facing off,” Marti said. “We did not see any justification (for the assault), or anything to indicate that the victim intended in being in or prepared himself for (a fight).”

According to the incident report, the suspect appeared highly intoxicated and told officers that he was at the bar with friends and that the victim had pushed him and he “felt assaulted,” so he punched him.

The victim’s wife said she and her husband were at the bar and the suspect punched her husband “for no apparent reason.” When POPD officers reviewed the bar’s security tape, it reportedly showed that while the suspects looked to have talked beforehand, there was no evidence of the victim touching the suspect prior to him being punched.

After he was hit, the victim was knocked down, his head striking the floor. Marti said the victim was initially transported to Harrison Hospital, but at around midnight, it was determined he required more advanced medical care and was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

On Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson at Harborview said that the victim was in intensive care and his condition was listed as serious.

At Whitford’s formal charging Wednesday, the deputy prosecutor asked Judge Theodore Spearman to keep the defendant’s bail at $250,000, stating the victim was “substantially injured and in a coma at Harborview. This case has the potential to be a homicide case should the victim not survive.”

The prosecutor later told Judge Spearman his earlier statement was incorrect and that the victim was not in a coma, but in “critical condition in the (hospital’s) Intensive Care Unit.”

Whitford’s defense attorney argued for bail to be lowered to $50,000, saying his client was “not a flight risk.”

Judge Spearman said that given the nature of the victim’s injury, he was setting bail at $100,000.

Marti said that this was the first such incident that he could recall occurring at Slip 45, and though POPD officers had responded to the business and the surrounding area since it opened, his department had not experienced the same types of problems with the new establishment as it had with the previous occupants, Mako’s Bar and Grill.

“Certainly not any serious assaults since they’ve opened,” he said. “The management is responsible and has responded well to officers’ requests. We have good communication with them.”

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