UPDATED: Spilled drink blamed for bar assault that may have led to Dover man's death
PORTSMOUTH — After police asked Zachary O’Neill, 24, if he repeatedly hit Joshua Krantz, 24, in the head at The Page restaurant Saturday, court documents say he responded: “I don’t see what the big deal is ... it was just a bar fight ...”
Krantz, a 2006 Epping High School graduate and football player, was found dead by a roommate in a Dover apartment within hours of the assault.
According to the arrest warrant filed in Portsmouth Circuit Court, an employee at The Page told police O’Neill had said he waited until near the bar’s closing time to hit Krantz because he didn’t want to ruin his own night — Krantz had allegedly spilled a drink on O’Neill earlier in the evening.
O’Neill appeared Wednesday in Portsmouth Circuit Court to face a felony charge of first-degree assault.
Judge Sawako Gardner set bail at $250,000 cash after hearing from prosecutor David Colby about the attack, O’Neill’s criminal history, and his failure to appear in court several times to face other charges.
O’Neill is also facing a breach of bail charge stemming from a disorderly conduct charge filed against him last March for a fight in the High-Hanover Parking Garage, just up the street from The Page.
The state medical examiner has determined Krantz’s cause of death as a skull fracture resulting in an “acute epidural hematoma” caused by blunt force head injuries.
The cause of death is still under investigation; it has not yet been ruled a homicide. A memorial service is being held for Krantz today at the Brewitt Funeral Home in Epping.
O’Neill was taken into custody in Rochester by state police Tuesday night after failing to turn himself in to Portsmouth police on the assault charge.
In July 2012, an Army veteran was dancing at The Page when he bumped into two people on the dance floor, according to police. A yelling match led bouncers to ask the group to leave. Moments later, Steven Bohn was beaten by two men outside the Page, police said. Four people were ultimately convicted in the attack, which seriously injured Bohn, a Purple Heart recipient.
City Attorney Robert Sullivan said there are steps the city can take to shut down an establishment that has generated the kind of complaints The Page has, citing the case of Club Spin in 2001.
“What happened there is you had an establishment that generated many of the same type of complaints that we are now hearing about The Page, alcohol-related incidents,” Sullivan said.
The city approached the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission, which blocked the liquor license for Club Spin, ultimately causing the club to go out of business, Sullivan said.
“As far as The Page goes, that matter is still being investigated by the police department, and when the police department’s investigation is completed, I expect that city officials will be looking at it to determine what, if any, action should be taken,” Sullivan said.
Mike Boulerice of Portsmouth said he has set up a Facebook page called “Shut Down The Page” and is organizing a protest in the Vaughan Mall area near The Page restaurant on Friday night from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Boulerice said the goal of the protest is to bring awareness to the problems at The Page and to pay tribute to the memory of Krantz in a peaceful way.
Previous story follows:
PORTSMOUTH - Police arrested a suspect Tuesday night in a Saturday morning barroom assault that may have caused the death of a 24-year-old Dover man.
Police arrested Zachary O'Neill, 24 of 12 New York St., Dover, on a first-degree assault charge.
Joshua Krantz, 24, an Epping native, and Dover resident, was found dead in his apartment by his roommates at around 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
After Krantz's death, police learned that he had been the victim of an assault while at The Page Bar and Restaurant on Hanover Street in Portsmouth on Friday night into Saturday morning.
Portsmouth Deputy Police Chief Corey MacDonald said interviews and evidence indicated that Krantz was first struck from behind and then hit repeatedly in the head,
The assault was not reported to police and Krantz declined medical attention, police said.
On Tuesday, the warrant was issued for O'Neill's arrest in connection with the beating, police said.
MacDonald said he expects the charge to be upgraded once the state medical examiner's office determines what happened to cause Krantz to suffer a skull fracture that resulted in bleeding of the brain.
That determination could take 4-6 weeks, depending on when toxicology test results are available.
O'Neill was currently out on bail on a disorderly conduct charge resulting from a fight in a parking garage, MacDonald said.
The Page restaurant and the surrounding Vaghan Mall area has been the scene of many public and violent crimes in recent years, MacDonald said.
"When you look at Portsmouth, it has well over 100 liquor licenses out there and certainly many of our issues at this point in time seem to be centered around that Vaughan Mall area," MacDonald said.
In January, the last of four suspects was sentenced in the brutal July 2011 beating of Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Steven Bohn outside of The Page after an altercation inside.
Additional patrols and beefed-up liquor enforcement have been ordered in the area, but MacDonald said the department has limited resources.
"We can't just put a police officer inside The Page, which some people have suggested," he said. "Everybody deserves a police presence and we have a lot of responsibilities."
He said the bar is not required to report an assault and cannot be held criminally liable for the assault.
The Krantz family has asked for privacy as they prepare to bury their son, brother and friend.
Josh Krantz was a 2006 graduate of Epping High School where he played football for four years, according to an obituary. After earning an associate's degree in business management, he was working at Bottomline Technologies in Portsmouth at the time of his death.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Epping/Newmarket Football Program, care of Newmarket High School.