Double shooting outside club revives debate over security

City police plan to meet with management of a downtown club after two people waiting in line were shot early Monday — a shooting that capped a violent weekend in Baltimore and has revived discussions about security around city bars and clubs.

Eight people were shot in the city over the weekend, and police said they had several plans in place in hopes of curbing violence. That includes prioritizing arrest warrants for people with domestic violence or robbery histories, and increasing foot patrols.

The double-shooting downtown occurred about 1 a.m. outside Club Mirage in the 400 block of W. Baltimore St., across from the Hippodrome Theatre. The victims were waiting in line to enter the club when a gunman coming from the west opened fire, sending patrons scattering.

One man, who police did not identify but said has a "very, very long criminal record," was shot multiple times and taken to an area hospital in serious condition, while a second victim walked into Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Acting Deputy Commissioner for Operations John Skinner said it "doesn't appear that the club did anything that would've contributed to this." Nevertheless, he said that the club has been growing in popularity and attracting larger crowds, and police want to meet with owners to head off any concerns.

"We have been monitoring it, but this is the most significant incident that they've had," Skinner said. "It's all about getting in front of this and getting us to work together."

Hassan Murphy, an attorney representing the club's owners, said management was trying to learn more about the shooting. "This club has a great track record of working with the community, and is committed to the safety of not only its patrons but making sure that people in the [surrounding area] are safe as well," Murphy said. "We're going to figure out quickly what happened here and work with authorities."

The club, located in a former bank building, recently changed its name from Mansion Baltimore.

The police union president, Robert F. Cherry, said the shooting incident reinforced his belief that police need to revisit how they handle officers working security at bars. In 2008, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III prohibited city officers from working security at businesses that serve liquor, citing the potential for conflicts of interest between public safety and the priorities of the establishment.

The city instead set up a system in which bar owners could pool funds to pay for on-duty deployment of officers in their area, which is in use only in Federal Hill and at the Power Plant Live complex. Not all businesses in those zones participate, officials say, as many had previously subcontracted officers through private security companies.

Liquor board chairman Steve Fogleman said bar owners "tell me point-blank that they believe they had the best security when off-duty police officers were working the clubs" and want to see that return.

Cherry said other clubs won't pay for police because of the costs or or because they are unwilling to have officers in close proximity. He said he believes the answer is for the City Council to explore an ordinance requiring bars and organizers of other events to pay for overtime officers if a certain-size crowd is expected.

"If you're going to pass out fliers trying to recruit large crowds, you should also have to pick up the phone and tell the city you're going to need five cops working the place that night," Cherry said. "It's only fair to the taxpayers, who end up losing police in their neighborhoods when something happens outside these places."

Skinner said there have been discussions about requiring promoters to pay for officers based on the size of crowds, but no policy changes are imminent. In March, an independent commission appointed to review the shooting of a city police officer outside the Select Lounge had also recommended a permitting system for party promoters.

New Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said he visited nightlife spots recently, and he agrees with Bealefeld that officers shouldn't work secondary employment for bars. He said he wants to have meetings with business owners to discuss "management things" like dress codes, taxicab pickup locations and crowd management on sidewalks. "Some of our locations could be better managed," Batts said.

Elsewhere in the city, police said they will continue to move officers from administrative assignments to walk foot patrols. Skinner said police also increased resources in the Eastern District in hopes of "drumming up intelligence" on some recent cases. He described the efforts as "targeted, working off a list of violent repeat offenders in those areas."

The department has also been pairing up city officers with state troopers for patrols in hot spots, most recently over the weekend along Greenmount Avenue.

Blogger James MacArthur posted photos of troopers conducting traffic stops and using license plate readers. Skinner said police have been using about a half-dozen troopers in areas of concern before last weekend, including in the Southwestern and Northeastern districts.

"When you look statistically at where the Northern District is, we're just very concerned about some of the violence that's been occurring up there," Skinner said. "Coming into this weekend, after a couple of incidents on Dumbarton Road, we wanted some additional coverage."

In the shooting of 18-year-old Harbor City High School student Tashawna Jones, which occurred Friday in the 300 block of E. 26th St., Skinner said detectives believed it was a domestic incident and have leads. Police also said they had made an arrest in the shooting Saturday of a pizza delivery driver in Cherry Hill, charging 20-year-old Dayone Jackson with attempted murder.

Batts said statistically, last year was a "home run year, a Super Bowl year" for police, and this year's numbers are trending the right way overall. "I want to do better and build on the successes we have, but at the same time, I am really happy with what I'm seeing" from commanders, he said.

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