'Could have been me': Man allegedly assaulted by Halifax bouncers 'terrified' by December homicide

CBC News has learned a December homicide is one of three incidents last year allegedly involving security guards at the Halifax Alehouse. (Dave Laughlin/CBC - image credit)
CBC News has learned a December homicide is one of three incidents last year allegedly involving security guards at the Halifax Alehouse. (Dave Laughlin/CBC - image credit)

A man allegedly assaulted by security guards outside of a downtown Halifax bar says he was terrified when he heard about the death of another man outside the same bar.

Ryan Sawyer died after police found him unresponsive on the street in front of the Halifax Alehouse in the early hours of Dec. 24.

Halifax Regional Police ruled the 31-year-old's death a homicide days later but have not laid any charges or released any more information.

Two months before Sawyer was killed, police charged two men with assault after an Alehouse customer said he was attacked and held in a choke hold outside the bar.

CBC News spoke to the man who was allegedly attacked on Oct. 10 but is not identifying him to protect his privacy.

The 21-year-old man claims he was ordering a beer when a bouncer tapped him on the shoulder and told him to leave. He claims he wasn't given a reason before being escorted out of the bar.

He claims that security guards taunted him once he was outside. He says he turned to walk away and hadn't moved 10 feet before a bouncer punched him in the side of the head and then other bouncers joined in.

He claims the last thing he remembers before blacking out was one bouncer holding him in a choke hold while two other bouncers punched him in the face and stomped on his ankles.

He claims when he regained consciousness, he was in police handcuffs. He was lying face down on Prince Street, not far from the Halifax Alehouse.

Police lifted the man up off the street, took one look at his face and stopped, he said.

"They pulled me out of the handcuffs right away," he told CBC News.

"If they didn't show up, God knows, I mean it very well could have went sideways."

Dave Laughlin/CBC
Dave Laughlin/CBC

The man claims he couldn't walk for days. He says he suffered a concussion, severe bruising all over his body and scarring around his eyes.

He was still recovering from his injuries when he heard about Sawyer being killed. He says he felt terrified.

"That very well could have been me," he said. "It was the exact same spot where I was."

Matthew Day and Alexander Levy are both facing a charge of assault related to the October incident.

Neither has yet entered a plea and the allegations against the two men have not yet been tested in court. CBC News contacted the lawyer representing both men several times and did not hear back.

CBC News has also contacted the owners of the Halifax Alehouse several times and have not received a response.

Day and Levy are accused only in the October incident. CBC News hasn't identified the members of Halifax Alehouse staff who were allegedly involved in the other incidents.

'Bouncer just wouldn't let go'

A witness who was outside the Halifax Alehouse in the early hours of Dec. 24 told CBC News he saw an altercation in the moments before police found Sawyer unresponsive.

"A little bit of pushing and shoving broke out between a few people and this bouncer, for some reason, targeted this guy," said Cobe Facey.

"The bouncer just wouldn't let go and continued to choke him until he passed out."

CBC News has seen a video of the altercation which Facey shot with his cellphone.

The four-second video shows three men dressed in black restraining a fourth man. The word "staff" can be seen on the back of one of the men in black.

One bouncer is performing a choke hold on the fourth man, while two others try to grab the man's limbs.

The man being restrained in the video is Sawyer, according to a friend of the Sawyer family.

Chris Hay told CBC News he has seen the four-second video and confirms Sawyer is the fourth man.

Facey says he has shared the video with Halifax Regional Police and given them a statement about what he saw that night.

Cobe Facey
Cobe Facey

Police will not say if Halifax Alehouse staff were involved in Sawyer's death or if they are suspects in their homicide investigation.

Const. John MacLeod says Halifax Regional Police can't share any more information at this point.

"With this being an ongoing investigation, certainly we couldn't get into the specifics of, you know, suspects and those things," MacLeod told CBC News.

MacLeod wouldn't comment on whether Halifax Alehouse staff were involved in an altercation with Sawyer before officers arrived.

The medical examiner has completed its autopsy in the Sawyer case, he said, but police will not share the cause of death.

Halifax police have received videos from members of the public who were downtown on Dec. 24 but they're still looking for more, MacLeod said.

"When we reach out to the public, if they have information that we don't already have or that they can provide to us, that certainly is going to be extremely helpful in these cases."

Strangled and punched, says lawsuit

A man allegedly attacked in a third incident last year says he was put in a choke hold while being assaulted by security at the Halifax Alehouse, according to court documents.

A lawsuit filed by Addisiane Freeland against the bar says he was assaulted by bouncers and left with serious injuries.

In the lawsuit, Freeland says he saw his friends sitting on the Alehouse patio at approximately 1:10 a.m. on Aug. 14 and joined them.

Bar security then allegedly told him to leave. The lawsuit says Freeland asked if he could finish his drink first and then he was attacked by several bouncers.


A video of the incident was posted on the social media website Reddit a few days after the incident.

The video doesn't capture the start of the altercation and begins after the man is on the ground under several bouncers.

The man isn't moving and is pinned to the ground under several people. At one point of the video, one of the bouncers is seen hitting the man with punches.

Someone who identified themselves as the girlfriend of the man in the video posted it and wrote a summary of allegations of what happened that night.


The post contains the same accusations in the lawsuit. It says the man asked to finish his drink after a bouncer told him he had to leave.

"Within seconds the bouncer had him by the neck, and [three] others joined in pinning him down and attacking him," the post says.

"One held him in a choke hold, strangling him, while another bashed him in the face using his elbow."

In the lawsuit, Freeland says he suffered a fractured hyoid bone in his neck, a concussion, lacerations on his elbow, knees, lip and eyes and severe bruising.

A statement of defence has not been filed in court.


Nova Scotia's Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco division says there is an open inspection of the Halifax Alehouse.

A spokesperson said in an email no other information is available since the inspection is ongoing.

A business with a liquor licence is required to notify the Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco division if an incident in or around its premises leads to police charges, according to provincial regulations.

The spokesperson wouldn't confirm if the Halifax Alehouse had been subject to liquor inspections in the past due to incidents involving staff being charged.

The spokesperson says the results of an inspection are only made public if it results in disciplinary action.

There are no records of any discipline taken against the Halifax Alehouse on the Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco division's website.

For the man who was allegedly attacked by bouncers employed by that bar, he says there should be consequences for their behaviour.

"Those guys are there to protect people," he said. "I don't really see why they have to do this."