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November 28, 2014

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A year later, justice still elusive for Urbanskis

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Tiffany Brown

Adam “Pacman” Jones, center right, appears in court Dec. 6 with co-defendants Sadia Morrison and Robert “Big Rob” Reid, and his lawyer Robert Langford, center, before Hearing Master Kevin Williams at the Clark County Regional Justice Center.

The Shooting, 2007: Four Bullets Later

Tom Urbanski was shot four times on February 19, 2007 while working as a bouncer at Minxx strip club in Las Vegas. He and his wife, Kathy, tell the story of their following year.

Stylist Sadia Morrison, the alleged biter and champagne bottle basher, will check in with a probation officer for three years and undergo impulse control counseling for her role in the episode, one that reinforced the nation’s worst images of Las Vegas.

Weighing 440 pounds, bodyguard Robert “Big Rob” Reid avoided jail time by pleading no contest to one count of conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct.

And Adam “Pacman” Jones pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct charges, will serve a year on probation, face random drug testing, take anger management classes and do community service. He will not go to jail and might even play in the National Football League again next year.

So much has changed for so many people connected to the Feb. 19, 2007, shooting at Minxx strip club one year ago today at the end of a chaotic NBA All-Star weekend in Las Vegas.

Nothing has changed more for anyone, however, than for Tommy Urbanski, who despite being uninvolved in the chaos inside Minxx is the shooting’s one, true, everlasting victim. In the gunfire that erupted about 4:30 a.m. outside the club, the Minxx manager was hit repeatedly and immediately lost any feeling below his waist. It will never return.

The shooter, a person police believe many people attending the club that night know, has never been caught.

Metro Police don’t take the shooter’s freedom lightly.

“The investigation has not stopped,” said Lt. George Castro, head of Metro’s violent crime unit. “After a year, how much longer can it go on? You start to sift through leads and start finding a lot of other things. That’s what’s going on right now. We’ve continued to solicit information and talked to people. It’s like a spider web — this person leads you to one and the next, and we continue to contact people here and in other states.”

Castro stressed that the Urbanski shooting is “not low in our priority.”

Asked if he ever saw an end, a moment when the shooter is caught, Castro put it this way: “I think it will be. As of right now, it’s a little iffy. But we’ll see what another 30 to 60 days will tell us.”

It was a year ago that club manager Urbanski walked up to Minxx, 4636 Wynn Road, surprised at the dozens of people standing and yelling outside the club in the early morning.

Inside, Jones, a 5-foot-10 star cornerback for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, and his entourage were being tossed out after a mad dash by strippers for dollars that had been “rained” down on the stage led to shoving, biting and a bottle being thunked — Hollywood-like but with real, heavy glass — over someone’s head.

George Petraski, whose bond with Urbanski was forged during their years together as professional wrestlers — Petraski as “The Russian Brute” and Urbanski as “The Mad Russian” — asked Urbanski to stand outside the club.

A few minutes later a gunman from behind a palm tree 10 feet away opened fire. Several bullets hit Urbanski, one lodging near his spine, the pressure of which paralyzed him.

Urbanski spent months in rehab at a Denver hospital. He staved off death from kidney failure. For weeks he held a plastic container in his lap so a chest infection could drain into it. His 400-pound body shrank to 300.

A year later, as his wife, Kathy, talks on the phone, he makes an electric guitar wail mournfully, one of his true loves the shooter did not take away.

Although others involved in the case have gone on with their lives, the Urbanskis struggle just to make it through one more day. Kathy Urbanski is on anti-anxiety medicine. They are in marriage counseling. They have a nurse and a nurse’s assistant who come in each day. But when they’re gone, Kathy is the one responsible for checking the health of parts of her husband’s body that he can no longer feel.

They have no permanent home, living for the past six months out of a Residence Inn because alterations to their southwest valley house to make it handicapped accessible are months from completion.

For the Urbanskis, everything in life is much more difficult than it was before the bullets.

“This was something you saw in the movies, or saw on the news and didn’t realize it was real,” Kathy said. “It was happening to someone else somewhere else.”

A day in court is coming. Along with two other shooting victims — former bouncer Aaron Cudworth and club patron Natalie Jones, neither of them seriously hurt — the Urbanskis filed a civil suit against Jones. The Urbanskis also are suing the Harlem Knights, a Houston-based strip club that rented Minxx for several days during the NBA All-Star weekend.

Their big target is the NFL. The Urbanskis claim Tommy was shot by someone who was a known member of Jones’ entourage. And maybe that entourage would never have existed, and the shooting never happened, the suit argues, if the NFL had done its job and more severely disciplined Jones after his numerous arrests since he was drafted by the Titans in April 2005.

Then, maybe, the shooting would have stayed where it belonged — in the movies, in the news, in someone else’s nightmare. Someplace far from the world of Tommy and Kathy Urbanski.

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