City of Des Moines Silent on Johnny Mac’s Good Neighbor Agreement Despite Deadly Shooting

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The city of Des Moines appears to be cracking down on bars that have had run-ins with violent acts.

Early New Year's day, 18-year-old Frederico Thompson Jr. was shot and killed outside of the 508 Bar along Indianola road. Two days later, the bar's liquor license was suspended. Just last weekend at 2500 MLK Parkway outside of J&J Pizza, five people were shot and over 40 shell casings found. The restaurant and bar's liquor license was suspended the next day. In August, outside of Johnny Mac's on Hubbell, one man--William Dawson--was shot and killed, two more injured, the business' license remained in effect throughout the investigation. Five months later, it was renewed for another year.

508's owner Teneshia Spears and J&J's owner Jerry Berry can only point to one reason for the discrepancy.

Jerry said, "They haven't closed down the one on Hubbell and they killed people over there shooting. They didn't take them downtown and they killed two or three people down there, and they are still open. So are they just picking on us here because this is a black bar?"

The owner of Johnny Mac's, John McCaughey, is a white man who has owned the establishment for 30 years. The Dawson family, who lost William Dawson to the fatal shooting, says Spears and Berry's claims may be correct.

"I feel like if you are going to shut down these other bars, whether they are minority or not, shut down Johnny Mac's. I don't care who you are. Fair is fair," said Amanda Fox, a member of the family.

One more difference Johnny Mac's may have, that 508 and J&J Pizza did not, is a good neighbor agreement deal in 2014 with the city of Des Moines. It promises to work with police and neighbors, but Fox said it did the family no favors.

"What good is a good neighbor agreement when you've got someone shot while you are in a good neighbor agreement and you're still running your facility?"

In the last six months, 508--which is now closed--received five visits, all in January, from police personnel. J&J Pizza received six, which is the same amount for Johnny Mac's in the same time frame. This left owners at 508, J&J Pizza, and the Dawson family without the answers they want.

"I don't care, black, white, Mexican, it doesn't matter what you are. If you have problems with some kind of illegal activities, shut it down," shouted Fox.

For two days, Channel 13 attempted to speak with City of Des Moines personnel about the good neighbor agreement, whether the shooting at Johnny Mac's was a violation of that agreement, and why the other bars didn't have it an agreement. We were turned down by the police department, city attorneys, and several city council members who said they were unable comment.