Atlanta police increase patrols after deadly nightclub shootings

November 6, 2020 Atlanta: Atlanta police congregate behind crime scene tape after a fight outside a downtown Atlanta nightclub devolved into chaos Friday morning, Nov. 6, 2020 when someone started shooting and two off-duty police officers attempted to intervene. According to Atlanta police, two people were killed by the gunfire and several others were injured, including one person hit by a vehicle when the crowd scattered outside the Monaco Hookah Lounge on Trinity Avenue. The two officers, who were not injured, were in uniform working a security job at the club. Police have been called to investigate shootings at the Monaco twice in the past 24 hours. Two people were wounded there early Thursday, but investigators have no evidence that incident was related to Friday morningÕs deadly bout of gunfire, according to Atlanta police Deputy Chief Timothy Peek. It all started Friday shortly after 3 a.m. when an argument between two groups turned physical in the parking lot, Peek told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from the scene. ÒThat physical altercation escalated into an exchange of gunfire with those groups,Ó Peek said. ÒTwo police officers who were working at that particular club, or lounge, noticed the altercation and engaged some of the people involved. There was an exchange of gunfire with police as well.Ó Two of the people injured by the gunfire were stable Friday morning, and one was taken to a hospital in critical condition. Peek said investigators believe the person hit by the vehicle was involved in the initial dispute. That person was expected to survive, he said. Bullets were flying in several directions across the scattered crime scene, Peek said, and police have not determined who fired the fatal shots. They have called in the GBI to investigate the incident as an officer-involved shooting. Peek called the scene Òpretty chaotic.Ó There could be additional shooting victims that have yet to turn up, the deputy chief said. ÒThe officers did shoot, but we want to ensure we look at the evidence and be able to prove who did what," he said. ÒThatÕs why we are dependent on the GBI.Ó It is the 82nd officer-involved shooting the GBI has been asked to investigate this year. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also tracks officer-involved shootings that donÕt involve the GBI, and those numbers sometimes differ from the GBIÕs tally.  (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)
November 6, 2020 Atlanta: Atlanta police congregate behind crime scene tape after a fight outside a downtown Atlanta nightclub devolved into chaos Friday morning, Nov. 6, 2020 when someone started shooting and two off-duty police officers attempted to intervene. According to Atlanta police, two people were killed by the gunfire and several others were injured, including one person hit by a vehicle when the crowd scattered outside the Monaco Hookah Lounge on Trinity Avenue. The two officers, who were not injured, were in uniform working a security job at the club. Police have been called to investigate shootings at the Monaco twice in the past 24 hours. Two people were wounded there early Thursday, but investigators have no evidence that incident was related to Friday morningÕs deadly bout of gunfire, according to Atlanta police Deputy Chief Timothy Peek. It all started Friday shortly after 3 a.m. when an argument between two groups turned physical in the parking lot, Peek told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from the scene. ÒThat physical altercation escalated into an exchange of gunfire with those groups,Ó Peek said. ÒTwo police officers who were working at that particular club, or lounge, noticed the altercation and engaged some of the people involved. There was an exchange of gunfire with police as well.Ó Two of the people injured by the gunfire were stable Friday morning, and one was taken to a hospital in critical condition. Peek said investigators believe the person hit by the vehicle was involved in the initial dispute. That person was expected to survive, he said. Bullets were flying in several directions across the scattered crime scene, Peek said, and police have not determined who fired the fatal shots. They have called in the GBI to investigate the incident as an officer-involved shooting. Peek called the scene Òpretty chaotic.Ó There could be additional shooting victims that have yet to turn up, the deputy chief said. ÒThe officers did shoot, but we want to ensure we look at the evidence and be able to prove who did what," he said. ÒThatÕs why we are dependent on the GBI.Ó It is the 82nd officer-involved shooting the GBI has been asked to investigate this year. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also tracks officer-involved shootings that donÕt involve the GBI, and those numbers sometimes differ from the GBIÕs tally. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

The Atlanta Police Department is increasing patrols around the city’s nightclubs after a string of recent shootings.

“People don’t duke it out anymore,” said Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore. “They pull out their gun.”

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms addressed the shootings Wednesday and noted in particular one that left a Chicago rapper and another man dead.

“We’re open as if we are not in the midst of a pandemic,” she said during a news conference. “There’s not a lot that we can do about that locally because obviously, the governor has made the decision to keep the state open.”

Bottoms sent a later statement clarifying she was not pinning blame for any one incident on Gov. Brian Kemp.

“The Mayor and the Governor have disagreements on policies related to COVID-19 — this is nothing new. At no point did the Mayor place blame at the feet of any individual elected official for the tragic shooting in question,” the statement said. “The Mayor is consistent in her desire for uniform policies to combat COVID-19 — or at the very least, the opportunity for local control so that municipalities can tailor policies specific to their own communities.”

The governor’s office, pointing to Bottoms’ updated statement, did not comment.

Moore said the council is working to make sure the city is enforcing policies already in place, such as making sure clubs don’t have more patrons than allowed by fire marshals. Officers are also working to verify business permits and working with club managers on safety measures, Officer C. J. Johnson said.

City Council Member Howard Shook said Bottoms could quell the violence by ordering clubs to close.

“The Mayor could shut all of this down with an executive order and enforce the law,” Shook said.

Closing nightclubs likely wouldn’t end the violence, Atlanta Police Union president Sgt. Jason Segura said.

“If you close those commercial clubs, there’s going to be pop-up clubs. And they’re not going to be regulated,” he said. “You shut down one avenue and another is going to open.”

Officers are resigning or retiring in higher numbers than usual this year, he has said.

“Now we have a hard time with visibility because officers are spread so thin,” Segura said. “They’re stacked up and working on multiple calls.”

Many nightclubs and bars hire off-duty Atlanta officers to work security jobs. But Segura said some nightspots may not be willing to pay for the number of security guards needed.

“The officers don’t get inside the club unless they called in,” he said. “They’re generally in the parking lot so people know they’re close by.”

Violence isn’t just a nightclub problem. This year is the deadliest in more than a decade, with 128 homicides. There were 99 in 2019.

October 7, 2020 Atlanta: Atlanta police investigated the crime scene where a bystander was shot multiple times when someone in a Range Rover opened fire Wednesday morning, Oct. 7, 2020 outside a Midtown nightclub, police said. Officers responding about 5:30 a.m. found the victim outside the Aurum Lounge on Peachtree Place, according to Atlanta police spokesman Officer Steve Avery. “The investigation revealed that a suspect in a dark green Range Rover drove by and fired several shots, missing the intended target and striking the victim,” he said in a statement. “The victim was taken to the hospital in stable condition and the investigation is continuing.” Police did not say if the victim, who was not identified, was a patron of the club. Bullets also shattered the glass storefront of a Supercuts on Spring Street and hit three cars parked nearby. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)
October 7, 2020 Atlanta: Atlanta police investigated the crime scene where a bystander was shot multiple times when someone in a Range Rover opened fire Wednesday morning, Oct. 7, 2020 outside a Midtown nightclub, police said. Officers responding about 5:30 a.m. found the victim outside the Aurum Lounge on Peachtree Place, according to Atlanta police spokesman Officer Steve Avery. “The investigation revealed that a suspect in a dark green Range Rover drove by and fired several shots, missing the intended target and striking the victim,” he said in a statement. “The victim was taken to the hospital in stable condition and the investigation is continuing.” Police did not say if the victim, who was not identified, was a patron of the club. Bullets also shattered the glass storefront of a Supercuts on Spring Street and hit three cars parked nearby. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Still, the string of nightclub shootings has officials on alert.

On Nov. 6, Chicago rapper King Von, whose real name was Dayvon Bennett, hosted his “Welcome to O’Block” album release party at the Monaco Hookah Lounge on Trinity Avenue in downtown Atlanta. Bennett and 34-year-old Mark Blakely of Chicago were killed in a shootout that injured four others when a fight started outside the club.

Three days later, police were involved in another shooting that left one man dead and another injured outside The Voo lounge on Campbellton Road near Childress Drive in southwest Atlanta.

On Oct. 29, an employee of the Members Only lounge in the Old Fourth Ward died from a gunshot wound to his chest. Authorities said Caleb Culbreath, 27, of Jonesboro, was shot following a dispute over the admission price.

A week before Culbreath was killed, 35-year-old Andre Pierce was shot multiple times after leaving the Compound Nightclub in west Midtown. He died from his injuries.

In August, two people were injured during a shooting inside the Déjà Vu Sports Bar & Lounge on Campbellton Road.

After the coronavirus hit Georgia, several businesses were closed until late May, when Gov. Brian Kemp eased restrictions against bars and nightclubs and allowed them to re-open if they followed dozens of guidelines. Kemp has renewed his order on a public health state of emergency and provided additional guidelines for bars and other businesses where food is served.

“More people are going out to nightclubs and to restaurants to socialize,” Moore said. “With that comes good people and people with guns.”

— Staff writers Tanni Deb and Stephen Deere contributed to this report.

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