Black Velvet Bruce Li has video of an incident captured by David Ruttenberg’s security cameras. The gist: Two men walk into the bar, sit down, and begin to openly snort cocaine at one of the tables. Ruttenberg’s manager alerts him, and they call the police. The police come, talk to the men, neglect to search them, and decline to look at the coke straw Ruttenberg’s manager snatched from one of them. The police then take the men outside, and let them go.
Ruttenberg showed me this video in my first meeting with him. He then showed me several more just like it. Time and again, police would send people into the Rack n’ Roll pool hall to buy, sell, and use drugs (as well as to attempt to induce Ruttenberg and his employees into illegal activity). When Ruttenberg would report the drug activity, the police would do nothing about it — a strong sign that the users were actually working for the police. Word would then magically spread around town that Rack n’ Roll was a hub for drug activity. It was. It’s just that the police appeared to be the source of a good deal of it.
I’ll get into the details a bit later, but in at least one case, and perhaps two, someone Ruttenberg hired specifically for the purpose of finding and reporting drug activity in the bar would later turn out to have been working for the police, who then instructed the same person to encourage drug activity in the bar.
Ruttenberg doesn’t deny that there may have at times been some minor drug activity in his bar. No bar owner can guarantee otherwise. But Ruttenberg was certainly vigilant about keeping Rack n’ Roll clean. He had several times turned people over to the police (and, in cases like this one, only to have the police do nothing about it). I’ve seen the reports he filed, and I’ve seen the personal log he kept. On other occasions, he had offered to cooperate with the police. He also had an extensive security system set up to catch drug activity in the bar. He even offered the police use of his external cameras to monitor crime in and near the shopping center. And as mentioned, he hired a bouncer and a DJ who, despite their outward titles, were hired mainly to find and report drug activity.
What Ruttenberg didn’t count on, and what appears to have happened, is that much of the drug activity taking place in his bar may actually have been instigated by the local police. And it would all be later held against him.