CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston City officials plan to revoke the business license for a downtown nightclub that was the scene of a stabbing over the weekend, even as the hunt for the suspect continues after charges were dropped against a man arrested earlier this week for the crime.
Authorities told the Daily Mail they arrested the wrong man in the stabbing of 18-year-old University of Charleston football player Kevin Clemens. The revelation came just after Mayor Danny Jones finished speaking to reporters about the city's plans to revoke Impulse nightclub's conditional use permit.
The club had its liquor license temporarily suspended earlier this week after the early Sunday morning incident. Clemens was stabbed three times in the abdomen directly in front of the club's Capitol Street entrance.
Police arrested Roland Willis, 22, of Charleston, late Monday, but his charges were dismissed Wednesday night, said Lt. Steve Cooper, chief of detectives.
Police are now actively searching for Aris Hairston, 26, of Charleston and hope he turns himself in. Anyone with information can contact detectives at 304-348-6480.
Cooper said four eyewitnesses misidentified Willis as the suspect. The four, who did not know Willis, had separate viewings of a photo lineup that included a photo of Willis from his Facebook account.
All of them, without hesitation, identified Willis as the suspect, Cooper said.
Willis deferred comments to his attorney, Tim DiPiero, who said he hadn't seen the charges or the dismissal yet but that he and his client were happy the truth had come out.
He said authorities arrested Willis at his home.
"He was awakened at his home with a gun on him," DiPiero said. "He had to go to jail for a couple of days. This was a very traumatic event.
"We're glad they quickly realized their mistake."
DiPiero said he wanted to withhold further comment until he saw the paperwork.
Even after Willis' arrest, the investigation continued, Cooper said.
"We like to build cases," he said. "We follow every lead and we want to be thorough."
He said detectives then began to receive information that Willis wasn't involved. That information began to point them to Hairston.
"He looks a lot like Roland Willis," Cooper said, holding the photos of the men side by side. "The resemblance is uncanny."
Detectives spoke with witnesses who know Hairston. Mike Oxley told detectives C.E. Sharp and J.T. Tate that he was at the club the night of the stabbing and that he saw Hairston get into an altercation with Clemens inside the club.
Oxley said Clemens "shoulder checked" Hairston, causing him to spill his drink. Oxley said he asked Hairston if he wanted him to beat up Clemens but that Hairston replied, "I will handle it," according to a criminal complaint released by detectives.
Cooper said the final piece of the puzzle came from Alisha Scott, Hairston's then-girlfriend.
Detectives later interviewed Scott, who also was at the club the night of the stabbing. She said Hairston confronted Clemens when they were leaving the club. She told them Hairston said while walking to the car, "That will teach him! When someone asks you to back up!"
She identified herself and Hairston in the surveillance video from the incident. She was seen standing next to her boyfriend when the stabbing occurred. Detectives said the video showed Hairston, wearing a white jacket, lunging at Clemens and stabbing him with his right hand.
"As soon as Mr. Hairston was identified, the charges against Mr. Willis were dismissed," Cooper said. "We had plenty of probable cause against Willis."
Cooper said misidentifications like this are rare.
Clemens was released from Charleston Area Medical Center's General Hospital Thursday, according to a hospital operator.
"Someone stabbed someone and we had someone violent on the streets," Cooper said. "We should probably get credit for clearing (Willis') name despite the initial evidence that he was the suspect."
Mayor Jones, who has repeatedly called Impulse a "crime factory," said the stabbing was the final straw.
"Club Impulse is not a plus to this city, it's a minus," Jones said during a press conference. "That's our feeling and that's why we're going to move to close it.
"We don't believe there's any constitutional right to a liquor license. We believe that place is nothing but a negative and that that place is an accident waiting to happen and that it's a crime waiting to happen."
He said that during the planning and approval process for the club in 2007, club owner Janet Amores told planning officials that Impulse would be "a really upscale, big city type nightclub" that would cater to young professionals looking for dancing and entertainment after dinner.
He said that hasn't been the case.
There has been a high number of disturbance calls and incidents of violence at and around Impulse over the last two years, according to a letter of intent to revoke the club's permit. The letter is signed by Dan Vriendt, city planning director.
Vriendt said since the club opened five years ago, multiple complaints have been made to the Alcohol Beverage Control Administration, including three instances of serving underage patrons.
He wrote in the letter that the city has tried to work with Impulse but the history of incidents shows that club management is unwilling or unable to provide adequate security and oversight of its premises.
"This incident was really the straw that broke the camel's back," Vriendt said of the stabbing. "If the bar wasn't there, then the incident would never have taken place."
Police Chief Brent Webster said he was glad the club's permit had been taken away.
Vriendt said Amores has 10 days to provide compelling evidence as to why her club should keep its permit. If she cannot, her permit will be revoked. She then will have 30 days to appeal to the Charleston Board of Zoning Appeals.
Phone calls to Amores and Robert Parsons, club manager, were not returned.
Writer Paul Fallon contributed to this report.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.cr...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4850.