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Richard’s Bar victim stabbed in back after confronting suspect, threatening to ‘kick his ass,’ prosecutors say

Judge Charles Beach on Thursday denied bail to Thomas Tansey, who is charged with the murder of Kenneth Paterimos.

Thomas Tansey (top left) faces a charge of first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Kenneth Paterimos (bottom left) on Feb. 21 outside Richard’s Bar in West Town.
Thomas Tansey (top left) faces a charge of first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Kenneth Paterimos (bottom left) on Feb. 21 outside Richard’s Bar in West Town.
Sun-Times file

In denying bail for a former Marine charged with murdering 23-year-old barista Kenneth Paterimos outside Richard’s Bar last month, a judge cast doubt on Thomas Tansey’s self-defense claims during his first court appearance Thursday.

But the hearing marked the first time law enforcement authorities laid out what they think happened both inside and outside the bar at 491 N. Milwaukee Ave. — and they painted a more complicated picture than had previously emerged of the events that led to the fatal stabbing of Paterimos in West Town on Feb. 21.

It was unclear how a fight between the two men started, prosecutors said, but they described Tansey, who was at the bar by himself, as being “severely intoxicated” and bumping into people. The two men exchanged punches and fell to the floor before they were separated and Tansey, 30, was removed from the bar, prosecutors said.

Paterimos’ family members have said Tansey allegedly directed homophobic and racist slurs toward Paterimos at that time, but Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said after the hearing that prosecutors have “no evidence whatsoever” that Tansey used any slurs. He did say that Tansey allegedly threatened to rip out Paterimos’ nose ring.

Tansey was escorted from the bar through an exit on Milwaukee Avenue and left alone, prosecutors said.

A witness heard Paterimos make a comment that he planned to “go outside and kick [Tansey’s] ass,” according to prosecutors.

“Multiple witnesses saw that [Paterimos] was angry and that [his] friends were trying to calm him down” and told him to leave through a different exit, prosecutors said. Paterimos, though, also left through the Milwaukee Avenue exit, followed by a friend.

A pair of witnesses — employees at adjacent taverns who were outside smoking cigarettes — then saw Paterimos and his friend follow and confront Tansey outside the bar, prosecutors said.

During an ensuing fist fight, Paterimos at one point stood over Tansey and struck him multiple times as his friend watched, according to prosecutors. Paterimos’ friend grabbed him in “a bear hug” and pulled Paterimos away from the fight, causing both men to fall to the ground, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said it was not immediately clear when Paterimos was stabbed, but they said he got up and returned to the bar while holding his arm, which was bleeding. Paterimos also suffered stab wounds to the back of his head, right clavicle and middle back and right arm.

Paterimos’ friend has said he has “no memory of what happened outside the bar,” prosecutors said.

Back at the bar, Paterimos collapsed on the floor, and his brother, Santiago Bueno, ran outside and disarmed and detained Tansey for police, prosecutors said. A bloody knife was recovered at the scene.

There were no surveillance cameras inside or outside Richard’s Bar that captured the stabbing, but a police POD camera recorded Tansey allegedly chasing Paterimos back to the bar.

“The actions of [Tansey] are not those of someone who had acted in self-defense.” Murphy said after the hearing, referring to a claim Tansey raised with police after his initial arrest and release after 48 hours in custody.

The two witnesses from adjacent bars came forward after Tansey’s initial release, prosecutors said, as police continued to investigate.

A warrant for Tansey’s arrest was issued last week and he was taken into custody again Wednesday after he had been in a hospital for a mental health evaluation, sources said. Tansey’s private attorney, Sam Amirante, said Tansey had kept in touch with authorities through his attorneys.

Amirante said Tansey “saw some horrible things happen” while serving in Afghanistan, which left him with trauma, which was aggravated during the fight.

Tansey has previously been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder as a result of his military experiences, according to a letter included in a court filing for a battery case that Tansey pleaded guilty to in 2017.

Following the hearing, Amirante said Tansey “was simply defending himself.”

“He’s remorseful about what happened here,” Amirante said. “It’s a very sad thing for both families, it is certainly very traumatic for both families, but we will get this case to trial as quickly as we can.”

Judge Charles Beach, though, denied Tansey bail, saying ,“What most bothers me regarding this ... is the location of the stab wounds. Those stab wounds all being to the back.”

Beach also said Tansey’s history of battery with the use of a weapon was concerning.

Paterimos’ brother, Cruzito Bueno, said that the family was happy that Tansey was ordered held without bail.

“It’s as good as it can get for right now,” he said in a text message.