May 7, 2018 11:41:55 AM
Zack Plair - [email protected]
Columbus police are seeking suspects in an early Saturday morning shooting near a nightclub on Seventh Avenue North.
Police Chief Fred Shelton said two men were shot at about 12:17 a.m. in an empty lot on the corner of Seventh Avenue North and 17th Street. Neither victim sustained life-threatening injuries.
The victims, whom Shelton said are related, had been riding together in a vehicle parked in the empty lot, which is across the street from Club Elevation located at 1603 Seventh Ave. N. He said police are still trying to determine if they were leaving the club or had just arrived to go there when the shooting occurred.
Lowndes County tax records indicate the late Robert E. Smith Jr., son of Mayor Robert E. Smith Sr., owns the property where Club Elevation sits. Shelton said Herman Lawson owns the lot where the victims were shot.
Shelton said investigators believe at least one shooter drove up to the lot, exited a vehicle and fired multiple rounds at the victims before driving away. Aside from the bullets that struck the victims, Shelton said a stray bullet struck a nearby vehicle and house, resulting in no injuries.
One victim, who Shelton said is 31, walked to a residence on 18th Street North and flagged down a Lowndes County sheriff's deputy who happened to be driving by. The deputy was administering first aid when city police officers arrived, and the victim was the taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle where he was treated and released.
The second victim, age 24, attempted to drive himself to the hospital from the scene. However, he made it to 10th Avenue North and Railroad Avenue before calling 911 for assistance.
He was airlifted to University of Mississippi Medical Center, Shelton said, where the victim remains in stable condition.
Neither victim is cooperating with the police investigation, according to Shelton.
Shelton does not believe the shooting was a random act of violence.
The mayor, either personally or through his real estate company, RES Real Estate, owned the property from 2007 until he deeded it to his son in 2016.
In 2010, the club - then called the Everyday Club and Lounge - was the site of a shooting that killed one and injured three others.
Mayor Smith told The Dispatch Quina Munson and Rhonda Bailey, who operate the club, have agreed to start closing at midnight -- one hour earlier than usual -- until the city could install more lighting around the facility. The operators also have agreed to post "No Trespassing" and "No Loitering" signs at the premises.
Both Bailey and Munson are employees with the city public works department.
Shootings outside nightclubs, businesses and other facilities have resulted in early closing times on several occasions over the last two years - including non-fatal shootings outside the Princess and at the Okay Foods convenience store, an officer-involved fatal shooting across the street from Premier Lounge on Southside and a fatal shooting on Thanksgiving outside the city-owned Trotter Convention Center.
In those cases, business owners either agreed, or the city council imposed, earlier closing times for up to six months while more security measures - such as lighting and cameras - were installed.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.