Shootout leaves one dead, five injured

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 2, 2004

1515 Washington St., site of morning shootout.(Brian Loden The Vicksburg Post)

[8/2/04]A Vicksburg man was killed and five other people were wounded when gunfire erupted in a Washington Street nightclub early today.

Mayor Laurence Leyens immediately vowed that the club will be forced to close.

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Police who were called to The Hilltop Lounge at 1515 Washington St., at 12:57 a.m., were trying to sort out events, but had concluded two men started a shootout.

“It looks like they got into an argument, or there were some well-established hard feelings that may have possibly involved a female, but what sparked it at the time we don’t know,” said Police Capt. Mark Culbertson. “Both subjects pulled guns and started shooting each other; multiple gunshots were fired inside the club.”

Killed was Danny Woodland, 32, 1807 Main St., identified as one of the gunmen. His body was taken to Mississippi Mortuary Services in Jackson for an autopsy, probably tonight. It was to be returned to Jefferson Funeral Home.

Reginald Rogers, 27, 2404 Railroad Alley, is believed by police to be the second gunman. He was reported in serious condition in the Intensive Care Unit at River Region Medical Center.

Culbertson said it is not clear if four others were hit intentionally or by stray bullets.

“The club was packed, and when you shoot a handgun into a crowd, you gotta hit somebody,” he said.

The injured were taken to River Region. They are:

Lakeia S. Green, 25, 47 Scenic Drive, good condition;

Erica Smith, 21, no address available, treated and released;

Christopher Henderson, 30, 1005 Urban Court, condition undetermined and still being treated by physicians; and

Latonya Williams, 26, no address available, treated and released.

Charges will be filed once police get a better account of events.

“The investigation is still early,” Culbertson said. “We still have to determine who shot who.”

Anyone in the club not already interviewed should contact police at 636-2511, he said.

Leslie Decareaux, Vicksburg Fire Department arson investigator, said fire codes call for an occupancy of 90 in the small club. Culbertson said he did not know yet if the club was in violation of the code, which is enforced by the fire department.

Washington Street has been the focus of a major reconstruction effort and has seen an increase in retailing, restaurants and shoppers during the past two years. The corridor, however, was blocked early today from Veto to South streets with law enforcement and medical teams working as hundreds of onlookers stood nearby.

The Hilltop Lounge received its city privilege license on June 8, less than two months ago. The business owner listed on the license is Jerry D. Evans. No address or age was listed for Evans.

“That store is shut down. It’s done,” said Leyens. “We’ve had a number of problems with that bar, and we’re not going to tolerate it.”

Rosalie Theobald, director of the downtown development and marketing group, Main Street, said she had not heard about any problems there until last week when she got a phone call complaining about disturbances there.

“I had asked (Deputy Chief Richard) O’Bannon to pull the 911 records about it,” Theobald said.

O’Bannon said records show there had been a stabbing at that address and police have been called there at least twice for fights. He also said police were called once because patrons of the bar were “popping towels” at the mules or horses used to pull downtown tour carriages.

The property was listed as a possible acquisition in the city’s urban renewal plan in 2001, but was not purchased by the city. Part of the renewal plan has the city buying property and reselling it to new owners who pledge improvements.

The building is between two major renewal projects. To the north is the Super Ten building, bought by the city and restored, and to the south is the former Western Auto property, currently under restoration by a new owner.

“We’re not going back to where we came from,” Leyens said. “We’re not going to have shootings in downtown Vicksburg.”

Previously, the city has taken action to close a bar in the same block that was considered a public nuisance. That process involves taking the owner to chancery court, where a judge rules and may permanently close a business.

Woodland’s death marked the second fatal shooting in Vicksburg in 2004. Three weeks ago, on July 9, the body of 44-year-old Christopher Cage was found on Fayette near Cherry Street. He had been shot multiple times, and police have charged Zachary Conner with capital murder. He remains in the Warren County Jail awaiting grand jury deliberations.