Former security guard remembers ‘Riverport Riot’ as Guns ‘N Roses returns

ST. LOUIS - It’s been more than a quarter-century, but Guns ‘N Roses is finally coming back to St. Louis. Many people remember the July night in 1991, when the Riverport Riot made headlines across the nation.

Here’s the back story in case you need to refresh your memory:

The band was performing the song “Rocket Queen” when lead singer Axl Rose got agitated with a fan near the front taking pictures. He asked security to stop the man, Bill “Stump” Stephenson, and take the camera. When security didn’t respond quickly enough, Rose jumped from the stage to confront Stephenson.

A scuffle took place on the ground before Rose was pushed back on stage. He grabbed the mic, said he was leaving, and slammed it to the ground. About 15 minutes later, the crowd realized the band was really not going to keep playing, and the Riverport Riot—or the Rocket Queen Riot—had started.

By the end of the night, there were 270 police officers from around St. Louis County at Riverport making several arrests, while paramedics took dozens of people to area hospitals with injuries. The Maryland Heights concert venue sustained thousands of dollars in damage.

Security guard Eric Molos was right in the middle of the fracas that night. He was the man Axl Rose jumped over to get into the crowd.

“Everybody was having fun,” he said. “It looked like a good crowd, everybody was dancing in the aisles and having a good time.”

Molos said there had never been any real trouble at any of the concerts he worked until that night.

“Next thing you know, I didn’t even hear him say 'Get that camera and take it,' I just saw him dive right over my head and it was on at that time,” he said.

Molos said he turned to see Rose in the middle of that crowd on the floor and was startled at first because he had never thought about what to do in a situation like that.

“By the time I got to Axl, he was already standing up and just grabbed him and pushed him back toward the stage with his security guards,” Molos said. “(Axl) went up, threw the mic down, and said he was going home.”

That’s when security managers told the guards to get on stage and protect the equipment.

Molos said he could see the tension building in the crowd the longer time passed.

“Slowly but surely, bottles started flying, a couple pieces of whatever they were throwing came up on stage, and we started backing up, and finally Maryland Heights police told us to abandon the stage.”

Molos didn’t get to see the madness that happened next because he was hit in the head by the flying debris. He was taken into an ambulance and rushed to the hospital where he had stitches and plastic surgery that day. The following day, he learned what happened.

“I couldn’t believe it. Just to see something like this happen where it catches everyone off guard, you have no clue what to do,” he said. “It’s all just improvised at that point.”

Rose was eventually dragged into court over the riot and has repeatedly bad-mouthed St. Louis in the years since. Many of his cases were settled out of court and a judge ultimately ruled the Rose was not responsible for starting the riot. Molos was one of those who settled his case before trial and likely won’t be in the Dome for the concert this time.

“I’m staying away,” he said. “I’m not getting back into that one.”

By John Brown

In the meantime, Guns 'N Roses and The Dome at America's Center issued the following list of non-permitted items for Thursday's concert, which you can view below: