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Bouncer arrested in student's death

Charges could be upgraded

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Posted: August 29, 2014 7:39 p.m.
Updated: August 29, 2014 7:45 p.m.
Bouncer arrested in student's death

Grant James Spencer

    A bouncer for a local bar is in jail after the beating death of a Georgia Southern University student.
    Michael Gatto, 18, Elkhorn Court, Cumming, was found unresponsive early Thursday morning at Rude Rudy's, a bar in the University Plaza adjacent to the GSU campus. He died later that afternoon, Bulloch County Coroner Jake Futch confirmed Friday morning.
    Gatto was a track and field athlete at South Forsyth High School last year, according to the school's website (
    A bouncer employed by Rude Rudy's, Grant James Spencer, 20, Olympic Boulevard, is behind bars on aggravated battery charges, said Statesboro Police Cpl. Justin Samples. Charges may be upgraded later as investigations continue, but as of Friday evening, they remained unchanged.
    Spencer is a former wrestler with Johns Creek High School, according to media reports.
    Futch said Gatto was pronounced dead around 1:30 p.m. Thursday by a doctor at Savannah's Memorial University hospital. Futch was notified of the death later that afternoon.
    Police responded early Thursday morning just after midnight to Rude Rudy's, where they found Gatto "unresponsive," said Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner in a statement released Thursday.
    Gatto was taken to East Georgia Regional Medical Center, then airlifted to Memorial University Hospital, he said.
    Gatto's body will be sent for an autopsy to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Savannah on Tuesday, Futch said.
    Thursday, on Rude Rudy's Facebook page, the business offered condolences to the victim's family, announcing the bar would be closed that night and that Spencer had been fired.
    "Our deepest sympathies and prayers go out to the Gatto family," the statement reads. "At the time of the incident, the employee in question was not working. His employment at Rude Rudy's has since been terminated. Rude Rudy's will continue to do everything possible to assist in the investigation.
    "Due to the gravity of the situation, Rude Rudy's will not make further comments until the investigation has been completed. Out of respect for the Gatto family and to further assist authorities in their investigation, Rude Rudy's will be closed for the evening."
    Rude Rudy's owner John Starkey could not immediately be reached for further comment and did not return phone calls Friday.
    Georgia Southern University President Dr. Brooks Keel expressed condolences to the families involved.
    "The entire Georgia Southern University family is deeply saddened by this tragic event and our thoughts and prayers are with Michael's family and friends during this very difficult time," he said in a statement released Friday.
    "My heart is broken by this tragedy that we now face. I call on the Eagle Nation to rally together in support of Michael Gatto, the Gatto family and friends and each other," he said.
    Counseling services are available to assist and support the campus community at the University Counseling Center, he said. Students needing services after hours may call University Police at (912) 478-5234 and ask for the counselor on duty, he said.
    Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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