The testimony told the prosecution’s story:
Four men kept trying to get into the North End Republican Club in Allentown just before its 3 a.m. closing time, but the security guard refused to let them in because they were not members, and he apparently had problems with them the previous night.
They argued, threats were made, there may even have been some shoving.
Finally, the men did manage to get inside when the guard opened the door to let another person enter, but they turned and headed back out the door when that guard, identified by witnesses as Andrew Gesslein, backed up, drew his handgun and fired three shots, killing one of the men.
That was the account of prosecution witnesses at a preliminary hearing Friday before Lehigh County District Judge Donna Butler.
Now Gesslein, 42, of Tilden Twp., Berks Co., faces trial on voluntary manslaughter charges for the death of Michael Randolph. Butler determined there was enough evidence against Gesslein for the case to go to trial, which she said will begin August 17. Gesslein is free on bail.
Located at 8th and Tilghman streets, the North End Republican Club is a bar that operates as an after-hours club, testified Allentown police Sgt. Alicia Conjour.
“It’s supposed to be a private club for members only. Instead of closing at 2 a.m. like the rest of the bars, it’s open until 3,” Conjour said.
Witnesses explained those entering the club through the rear door have to gain admittance from a security guard, show their ID, pay, sign in and be searched for weapons by another guard with a metal-detecting wand.
The three unidentified men who were trying to get into the club with Randolph did not testify Friday. Gesslein was at the hearing but also did not testify, nor did any other defense witnesses.
When arrested, Gesslein told police he would not let Randolph, 23, and his friends into the club because he believed they were involved in an altercation the night before, testified Detective Timothy Salgado of the Lehigh County district attorney’s office.
Salgado said what Gesslein described as "a junior riot" had occurred outside the club at closing time on April 28. Salgado said Gesslein also was working at that club that night and called police to quell the large and tumultuous group outside the club.
On April 29, Gesslein told investigators, the men threatened to beat and kill him and tried to force their way into the club by pulling the door out of his hand. Gesslein also told police Randolph grabbed his right arm and someone else grabbed his fleece jacket.
“He believed they were trying to pull him out of the club,” said Salgado.
Gesslein said he was able to break free, step back 10 to 12 feet and draw his firearm to defend himself.
Gesslein told police Randolph and his three friends ran back outside, but claimed Randolph stopped on the step outside the door, turned to face him and reached into his pants, according to the testimony.
Police found no gun, knife or other weapon on the victim. Witnesses at the hearing also said they did not see any weapons on the victim or his companions.
Salgado said surveillance video has been recovered from a camera covering the club’s rear entrance, but no cameras were inside the club.
Witness Lakera Kelley testified four people were arguing with Gesslein outside the club entrance when she arrived to go in around 3 a.m.
They were yelling back and forth, she said, with Gesslein telling them they could not go in, the people asking why and Gesslein saying, "because I said so."
Kelley said one woman told Gesslein "you put us out last night and told us to come back again today and now we’re here and you’re not letting us in."
Kelley testified Gesslein and the people he was arguing with were saying such things as "I’m not scared of you," "we could fight," "I’ll beat your [expletive]" and "I’ll shoot you."
Kelley said Gesslein did let her into the club while the argument was going on.
Miguel Gomes, who is not a member of the club, testified Gesslein also gave him a hard time when he tried to get in about 2:45 a.m.
"He was very rude in the beginning: 'If you're not a member, you can't get in'," said Gomes.