Kizmet Hamilton, mother of Zachariah Blanchard, speaks to the media on Thursday morning about her son’s condition and her public plea for community members to come forth with information about the shooting that her son was a victim of. Photo by: Mary Alice Weeks/Dispatch Staff
April 4, 2014 10:26:54 AM
The mother of 18-year-old Zacharias Blanchard, one of five victims in Sunday's Club Rock shooting, gave a simple plea to the public Thursday: Help investigators find the person or persons responsible for her son's injury.
Kizmet Hamilton, along with Blanchard's father, David, and Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Department representatives, urged anyone with information to come forward and speak with law enforcement agents since leads in the case have proven difficult to develop.
Based on witness interviews, investigators believe a crowd of approximately 1,000 people were gathered at Club Rock when 20 gunshots from three separate areas in the facility's parking lot rang out about 2:20 a.m. Sunday. Deputies spent the days following the shooting canvassing the area for clues and interviewing witnesses, but the local community provided few leads and little insight into the incident.
"I've been doing this for 20-plus years. This is the first time I can recall that we've had an incident of this magnitude, and no one has been willing to come forward, stand up and do the right thing," Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Department Commander Brett Watson said. "We know there are people in the community who saw this shooting happen. We need you to come forward to bring justice to the individuals who were involved."
"I come to you this morning not only for our son ... but for all the other victims injured in this attack. What if this was your sister? Your brother? Your mother? Your father? I have one question for you: Would you want justice for them? Would you want someone to speak out for them?" Hamilton asked. "I would just like someone - anyone - to come forward and let us know and put this person behind bars that committed this crime.
"To the parents: You're a parent just like me. If you know your child was out there, please talk to them and question them," she added. "If they know anything, get them to come forward."
Zacharias Blanchard was listed in stable condition at University Medical Center in Jackson's critical care unit.
Investigators discovered three weapons at the crime scene, which will be analyzed by the Mississippi Crime Lab. OCSD did not release a description of a suspect or identify any potential get-away vehicle.
The shooting does not seem connected with any incidents that happened inside the club, Watson said.
Due to uncooperative sources, Watson said OCSD is building an incident narrative based upon community chatter instead of direct witness statements. Even the four other victims, who were treated for their injuries and subsequently released from area hospitals, could not identify those responsible for the shooting, he said.
"We have a good idea of what happened, but the unfortunate thing is it's just community talk. To this point, no one has been willing to come forward and tell the story to us," Watson said. "Law enforcement does everything it can do to solve every crime. But we can't be on every street corner; we can't be in every house; we can't be in every club. There are simply not enough of us to go around.
"Citizens willing to come forward and help law enforcement are absolutely critical to the safety to our county," he added.
Anyone with information on this incident is asked to call Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Department at (662) 323-2421 or Golden Triangle Crime Stoppers at (800) 530-7151. Anonymous tips can be submitted to OCSD via http://sheriff.oktibbeha.ms.us/contactus.
Shooting inspires ordinance
Reports of nefarious activities at the Rock Hill community nightclub have drawn the ire of deputies in recent years, but Sunday's shooting is serving as the impetus for a potential ordinance that could rein in countywide nightclubs' operating hours.
Oktibbeha County Sheriff Steve Gladney said his team is working together with Jackson Brown, the county attorney, to develop an ordinance that looks to similar rules in Lowndes and Lee counties for inspiration.
Lowndes County supervisors approved a 1 a.m. end to nightclub operations in August with a rule that also applies to community, recreation, convention and multi-purpose centers that serve alcohol or provide live music and dancing. Patrons are also required to leave the premises shortly after closing.
The rule was approved after Lowndes County Sheriff Mike Arledge lobbied supervisors for stiffer regulations due to littering, public intoxication, disorderly conduct and code-compliance issues.
"We met with the citizens of the Rock Hill community; they are concerned about what happened out there," Gladney said. "We want the citizens of Oktibbeha County to know and understand we're not taking this lightly. We're doing everything we can to make sure that we correct these problems."
Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer said the county could take up the ordinance as soon as Monday if OCSD is through adjusting its language.
"The board will definitely be all ears because safety is our main concern. There's a time and a place for all things, but at the same time it seems like these situations are only happening in the wee morning hours," Trainer said.
Club Rock is located in District 2, which Trainer represents.
"I was called by a resident who lives a street over. She was telling me about the gunshots and how she knew exactly how many rounds were fired because she heard them all," he said.
District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery said Wednesday he would support any hour-limiting request made by Gladney.
'An ongoing problem'
If supervisors move forward with the anticipated ordinance discussions, it would not be the first time Club Rock made it to county table as an agenda item.
The board voted in 2011 to seek a temporary injunction against the nightclub after police and fire representatives said the business was a safety hazard. In December of that year, then-Sheriff Dolph Bryan played a video to supervisors that documented the chaotic moments after the venue's crowd, panicked by gunfire, attempted to flee in unison through a half-blocked exit.
Before Thursday's press conference, investigators recounted the video, describing people trampling others and climbing over club patrons to exit the facility.
Supervisors then agreed to develop an ordinance regulating capacity and enforcing safety codes at county venues, but tougher rules did not come to fruition.
"We've had an ongoing problem with Club Rock for years, and I think the citizens in that area are tired of it," Watson said. "The ones we have spoken to at this point, they've all been willing to assist us in any way possible to putting an end to the problem."
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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