April 17, 2014 10:40:54 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
A circuit court judge on Friday temporarily closed Club Rock after the Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Department, through an affidavit seeking a temporary restraining order, said it received credible information that a retaliatory shooting "has been planned and is ready to be carried out" at the nightclub.
Club Rock will remain closed -- its owner, Larry Fair, and the public are also barred from the premises -- until at least Monday when a nuisance hearing is scheduled before Oktibbeha County Circuit Judge Jim Kitchens.
As anticipated earlier this month by Sheriff Steve Gladney, the district attorney's office filed a petition to abate a public nuisance with the circuit court Monday while successfully seeking a temporary restraining order against Fair and Club Rock.
The petition states Fair performed, permitted or allowed improper and illegal activity to occur at the Rockhill Road establishment and refused to correct or prevent those actions despite numerous warnings.
"The nuisance conditions of the respondent's property substantially and unreasonably injures the health, offends the senses and interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property of the residents of the city of Starkville and county of Oktibbeha and entire city neighborhoods," the petition states.
Relief sought includes revoking and suspending any Club Rock business licenses and closing the establishment and others operated by Fair with similar allegations.
If the court allows the nightclub to continue operations, the petition asks that Fair be required to take measures preventing illegal activities at the site, including installing surveillance cameras, conducting employee background checks, screening customers at the door, allowing police walk-throughs during operating hours and preventing loitering in its parking lots.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Jackson was granted an ex-parte restraining order -- both parties were not present when the matter was filed -- after an affidavit signed by Oktibbeha County Chief Deputy Chadd Garnett said deputies knew of planned reprisal shooting, which created a situation of "insufficient time" to give Fair such a proper notice.
The Club Rock owner was served later that day after Kitchens signed the temporary restraining order.
Investigators are still attempting to piece together the events of March 30, when five people were shot in the club's parking lot.
Four victims were treated for their injuries locally and released, but 18-year-old Zacharias Blanchard remained hospitalized in Jackson earlier this month.
An update on his condition was not available at press time.
Based on witness interviews, investigators believe a crowd of approximately 1,000 people were gathered at Club Rock when at least 20 gunshots from three separate areas of the facility's parking lot were fired at approximately 2:20 a.m.
Deputies spent the days following the shooting canvasing the area for clues and conducting interviews, but the local community provided few leads.
Earlier this month, investigators said they turned their attention to "community chatter," or second-hand information due to the lack of cooperation.
Deputies have not released descriptions of the shooters or any potential vehicles that may have been used to flee the scene.
County supervisors recently began reviewing a potential nuisance ordinance that would force nightclubs to close their doors at 1 a.m., remove patrons from the premises 30 minutes after closing time and require owners to provide at least one bonded security guard per 100 patrons inside and outside the facility.
Club owners who violate the misdemeanor provisions could face a maximum $900 fine, serve up to 90 days in jail, or both in Oktibbeha County Justice Court.
Owners would also be forced to secure an annual operating permit with the sheriff's department for $50. Continued violations involving littering, loitering, vandalism, noise complaints, fighting, assaults, inaccessible roads and other nuisances could lead to permit revocation if the ordinance is passed.
Deputies may also temporarily suspend permits to restore order when ongoing violations endanger the life, welfare and safety of patrons and residents who live near the establishment.
"I'm concerned about the people that live around Club Rock. It's a miracle nobody else was hurt," Gladney told supervisors on April 7. "It's my job and obligation to project the citizens in that community, and they're concerned about a lot of things."
"Hands down, Club Rock has the worst track record over a period of time than any other establishment in (District 2)," said District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard in that same meeting.
Howard said he was willing to do whatever was necessary to close the establishment.
It is not known if supervisors will take up the matter again at their next meeting or in May.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch