The Strip Club-Robbing ATL Cops

The Story Of The Strip Club-Robbing ATL Cops

Published Tue, September 6, 2022 at 3:06 PM EDT

The 450-pound steel safe with no identifying marks was pulled from a pond off Elders Mill Road near Senoia, GA.

Police on scene suspected that it was one of many safes — 18 to be exact — that had been stolen during an unsolved robbery spree involving several of Atlanta Metropolitan area’s finest gentleman’s clubs.

The murkiness of the water was symbolic of the lack of leads. Some suspected an inside job. Others thought they were copycat crimes. But there was no denying the pattern.


In September 1991, thieves broke through the roof of the Goldrush Showbar on Stewart Avenue and made off with $82,000 from the safe. The same year, Goldrush Showbar owner, Henry Lamar Jeffcoat, was followed home by two men. His masked attackers struck him from behind, duct taped his arms behind his back, and forced him to empty both a bedroom and garage safe of more than $62,000. 


Afterwards, Jeffcoat armed himself with a .9mm handgun, and installed a silent alarm in his late-model Cadillac.

If, and when, there was a next time, Jeffcoat swore that he was going to fire quicker than one his dancer’s could drop her G-string.

In April 1992, someone pilfered $7,000 from Boomers Adult Entertainment in Marietta. In October 1993, burglars made out with $18,000 in cash after bending back steel doors and sawing through the safe at Diamond Club International. In November, $25,00 was taken from Tops and Tails Show Clubs. And in December, someone made off with $40,000 after climbing through a ventilation grid and looting the Gold Club on Piedmont.


Cobb and DeKalb County adult clubs had already been through a form of economic shake down. In 1989, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that local governments could retrofit their laws. Since total prohibition wasn’t constitutionally protected, restriction­ ­­— specifically where the clubs could be located, the lack of nudity, and the outlaw of alcohol sales — became a counties best weapon.

Establishments like The Pink Pony, The Follies, Oasis Goodtime Emporioum I, Escapades, Strokers, Jazzy All Over, Cyprus Lounge, and Boomer’s all faced the challenge of survival in the face of moralists.  


In 1992, a Superior Court Judge overturned the ruling – calling it too restrictive. In the three months in between the overturn, and the new legislation, eight new clubs opened in DeKalb. There was a similar explosion in Cobb and Fulton Counties; from just 2 in 1991, to 9 by 1994. Atlanta police issued 6,200 permits to adult club employees in 1993, most of whom were dancers. 


Henry Lamar Jeffcoat had stuck it out; through the robberies, through the legislation, and through all the negative talk about “The Avenue” in the press (a term used to describe unsavory aspects of Stewart Avenue). He was even planning on expanding the Goldrush brand after Marietta officials granted him a license to open Goldrush II. 


On the night of February 10, 1993, Jeffcoat returned home from his establishment at 1:15 AM. As he hit the close button on the garage’s remote control, gun fire exploded from both sides of his car. Hit several times, Jeffcoat was able to squeeze off several defensive rounds, and trigger the silent alarm. The air became thick with smoke, gas, and debris from all of the pistol rounds.


Surprised by a show of force, the attackers fled by kicking out a panel of the garage door. A trail of blood led from the house to a wooded area nearby — indicating that Jeffcoat had shot one of the robbers before getting into a getaway car driven by a third man.


When Officer Dallas Baston arrived, he found the garage still full of smoke. Jeffcoat was slumped over in his car and pronounced dead at the scene. He had been hit by nine of the 15 bullets.

Officer Jim Batsel in handcuffs

Credits to: The Atlanta Journal Constitution

The tip line in Clayton County, Georgia was no stranger to elaborate tales about who, what, why, and when things happened in the Atlanta Metropolitan area. But this call was different. According to the tipster, a makeshift gang of power-lifting police officers, a former football star turned nightclub manager, a former Army Ranger, a dog trainer, and a night club bouncer had been the ones responsible for terrorizing various Atlanta-area strip clubs.

They jokingly referred to themselves as “The Apple Dumpling Gang.”

Despite what sounded like a tall tale, the description actually matched the police’s active working theory; that rogue officers had indeed formed a burglary ring. 


This suspicion only grew when officer James C. Batsel IV reported that his department-issued .9mm had gone "missing." The model matched that of Jeffcoat’s murder. A fellow Riverdale officer, Mark D. McKenna, had also called in sick and asked for time off to visit his, "ailing father in Ohio."


Batsel and McKenna had been a part of the 27-officer Riverdale police force since 1988 and 1989, respectively. They each made $24,000 a year, and worked part-time security jobs at fast food restaurants and high school sporting events.


At the time of Jeffcoat’s murder, it was believed that 20-50 percent of metro area police department officers worked an extra job. However, experts believed that number was probably much closer to 95 percent. Despite the availability of private security firms, the thought was, a real officer provided skill and weapons training that a civilian might not have, and the ability to make an actual arrest.


In Georgia, most departments limited their officers to no more than 20 hours over their regular shifts each week, and restricted employment in bars or nightclubs. But the dirty little secret was that departments liked their own working security because it usually lessened the strain on their on-duty officers by eliminating, or discouraging, criminal behavior.

Acting on this tip, police descended on Batsel and McKenna’s residences in starter homes in adjoining subdivisions off Padgett Road in south Fayette County.


The search revealed Riverdale-issued SWAT team fatigues, two way radios programmed to the Clayton County police frequency, rifles, shotguns, and pistols. The most damaging piece of evidence was a diagram of Jeffcoat’s home written on the back of a Riverdale police form.


McKenna wasn’t in Ohio tending to his sick father, either. He was wounded. Jeffcoat’s bullet had pierced his cheek and come out behind his ear. 


Three more officers, William Moclaire, Brett Morrill, and Eric Hagan were all arrested in subsequent days. The former had worked security at the Goldrush and was arraigned on murder, while the latter two were linked to an armed robbery at a Home Depot.

Donald Curtis White and Troy Endres

Credits to: The Atlanta Journal Constitution

The seedlings of the “White Boys Against Crime” began at a Gold’s Gym in Fayetteville underneath the strain of loaded barbells.


Batsel, McKenna, Moclaire, and the yet-to-be-identified getaway driver during the Jeffcoat murder, Chris Grantham, liked how they felt after they left the gym with a pump. Moclaire, specifically, was a a burly specimen; 6’1’, 265 who never met a deadlift he couldn’t resurrect from the floor.

But “Jim Bob” Batsel… he was something completely different; a monster moonlighting as a police officer with a badge.

Batsel served in the Navy and fire department before joining the force. He was described by his training officer as a talented and a hard worker who, “should learn to harness excess energy and use [it] constructively.” 


Twice divorced, Batsel was cited for reverting to childish pranks during his training — like when he exposed himself to an all-male training class. He was proud of what he had underneath his trousers, and more specifically, what he had become on the outside since ballooning from 210 to 298 pounds.

He now had a 64-inch chest, 21.5 inch biceps, 34-inch thighs, and 21-inch neck. To achieve this, he ate 10,000 daily calories — including 16 chicken breasts, five cans of tuna, two turkey subs, a pound of pasta, a pound of oatmeal, and five baked potatoes a day. On Sunday, he preferred simplicity over variety: a 4-pound sirloin steak that he took down with his hands like a lion over a fresh kill. For dessert, he lifted weights for four hours.

McKenna was a likely workout partner because they shared a profession and lived close to Batsel. He had served in the Army National Guard Unit in Operation Desert Storm for four years, and as an MP sergeant at Fort Leavenworth. Unlike Batsel, he was quiet, reserved, and well-mannered. 


Moclaire had a “vanilla” case file, but he had been suspended with pay pending allegations of domestic abuse against his ex-wife. On his employment application, he stated his hobbies and interests were simply, “staying very athletic and in shape.”


The men on the periphery of the robbery crew worked within the orbit of the police force, and as security detail at various clubs. Brett Morill had been fired from the force for allegedly stealing $30,000 from a Home Depot safe while holding the manager at gunpoint. James Donald “Donnie” Kirkland worked as the manager at the Goldrush. Chris Grantham had been discharged from the Army after a parachute accident, and picked up work as a bouncer at the Goldrush. Troy Endres also worked as a bouncer at the Goldrush. And finally, Curtis White was a club regular who owned a drug sniffing dog that clubs used to discourage illicit activities amongst the employees and dancers.

The crew’s natural proclivity towards crime — plus the dangerous additive of mood altering anabolic steroids — was nightmare fuel for club owners.

In 1991, Larry J. Gaines, a former executive director of the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police, and now chairman of the criminal justice department at California State University at San Bernadino, wrote an article for the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin warning: “Anabolic steroid abuse by police officers is a serious problem.”


Batsel began taking steroids orally and injecting himself over a period of about a year, beginning in January 1992. When he presented the idea of robbing local strip clubs to McKenna, he described it as taking dirty money from drug dealers. The notion that it was deemed illegal money — and that the other officers felt they were underpaid — fed the narrative that they were more "Robin Hood" than "hood robbers."


The robbery planning occurred at different locales throughout Clayton County — including IHOP, Burger King, and Krystals. While they attempted a certain amount of sophistication, it was often a comedy of errors. They mistakenly stole a bag of syringes instead of night receipts, broadcast their plans over a frequency used by a DUI task force, and fell from grappling hooks while trying to climb a store wall. When they underestimated how heavy a safe was, Bret Morril — in uniform — borrowed a handtruck from the Quick Save Food Mark, and returned it 45-minutes later.


On rare occasions, they were actually successful. On June 8, 1992, members of the crime ring broke into the Foxx Adult Entertainment Club. Officer Morrill, who was on duty, acted as a lookout for the ring members who entered the club and monitored his police radio for any calls concerning the burglary. When they were unable to open the safe, they brought it to Batsel’s house in a van they called the “War Wagon.” They unearthed $2,000 in cash and some Foxx Bucks — coupons for tipping nude dancers. You guessed it: That safe was the one dumped in a pond off Elders Mill Road.


Two weeks after the Foxx break in, crime ring members burglarized a Home Depot store. They were unable to open the store safe, but stole various other items. During the burglary, Morrill again was on duty and monitored his police radio. A week later, they hit the Home Depot again. This time, they held a gun to the manager's head and forced him to open the safe.

Henry Lamar Jeffcoat's murder became priority number one for area detectives, and Batsel IV became their chief witness. After admitting to shooting Jeffcoat nine times at close range, he linked Moclaire, Morrill, Troy Endres, Kirkland, and Grantham as his co conspirators in the robbery ring. In exchange for his cooperation, Batsel IV was given life without parole.


In subsequent trials, Morrill and Moclaire were found guilty of armed robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, and firearm charges, and given 25 years. Troy Endres was convicted of armed robbery and given 10 years. Kirkland was convicted of 11 criminal counts and sentenced to 35 years. Grantham was convicted of murder and sentenced to life." Finally McKenna pled guilty, and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"I've seen a lot of things go wrong with police, but nothing quite this bad," said Riverdale police lieutenant, Hugh Brown."

In 1997, Stewart Avenue was rebranded Metropolitan Parkway at the request of business owners who said that the old name sullied their reputation. Gone were remnants of the past — like the blighted Gary Motel — where prositition and crime ran rampant. Additionally, the state of Georgia prohibited police officers from off-duty assignments including, "adult entertainment establishments and employment in which the primary source of revenue is the sale of alcoholic beverages."

However, in 2022, Darin Schierbaum, the interim chief of police in Atlanta, said he was changing the decades-old policy prohibiting off-duty extra jobs for these establishments.


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