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City gathering ammunition to close club

Vicksburg Police Investigators Dewayne Smith, left, and Sgt. Virgil Woodall leave the Hilltop Lounge at 1515 Washington St., after gathering evidence Monday.(Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[8/3/04]While police were still at the scene of a Monday morning homicide, Vicksburg officials took the first steps toward shutting down the downtown nightclub where it occurred.

In addition to one man sustaining fatal wounds in a shootout, five other people were wounded.

Police Capt. Mark Culbertson said criminal charges are pending as witness interviews continue. “We want to look at every aspect of the case before we do anything,” he said.

Police have said the dead man, identified as Danny Woodland, 32, 1807 Main St., exchanged gunfire with Reginald Rogers, 27, 2404 Railroad Alley, who was reported in fair condition today at River Region Medical Center.

Of the four others who were either intentionally shot or hit by stray bullets, only one remained in the hospital. Lakeia S. Green, 25, 47 Scenic Drive, was listed in good condition at River Region.

Treated and released were Erica Smith, 21, no address available; Christopher Henderson, 30, 1005 Urban Court; and Latonya Williams, 26, no address available.

At its regular meeting Monday, the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously to seek an injunction against the owner of the Hilltop Lounge, 1515 Washington St., and close the business. City Associate Attorney Bobby Robinson said he expected to file a motion today in Warren County Chancery Court seeking to have the club declared a nuisance and a danger to the public.

“People in the club and people walking on the street have a right not to get shot,” Robinson said.

Immediately after the shooting, Mayor Laurence Leyens said the city’s legal muscle would be flexed.

Charles Borrello, owner of Borrello’s Restaurant, 1306 Washington St., agreed that a reduction in downtown crime must be maintained.

“We’ve just come too far in downtown Vicksburg to regress,” Borrello said. “We welcome all potential businesses and customers that come downtown, but we have to have some police presence at night in downtown,” he said.

In addition to seeking a court order to close the bar, city building officials and fire department officials also inspected the building.

“There were several violations,” said Fire Chief Keith Rogers.

Code violations in the business that was licensed to open June 8 included a chain lock on the back door to the building and alcohol being stored there that owners were not permitted to sell.

For now, the club is closed as a crime scene by order of Police Chief Tommy Moffett.

“I’m not going to tolerate our town going the wrong way,” Leyens said. “If I have to put a police officer on every corner, that’s what I’ll do.”

The police department is about two blocks from the nightclub.

Since the current administration took office in 2001, the city has spent about $8.2 million downtown, including $2.6 million for Washington Street reconstruction.

The city also awarded a $2.6 million contract last month for construction of a downtown park. The work is part of an overall plan to attract more businesses and ultimately more tourists to downtown.

In other matters the city board:

Accepted $9,242 from the Fannie A. Williams trust fund for the care of Memorial Rose Garden on Monroe Street.

Proclaimed the week as Responsible Gaming Education week.

Approved a request from Keep Vicksburg-Warren Beautiful to hang a banner on a blank panel of the downtown floodwall to raise money for a mural.

Approved address changes recommended by the Warren County E-911 Commission last week.

Accepted a $12,400 Local Law Enforcement Block Grant from the state.

Authorized the building inspector to cut and clean overgrown lots.

Approved the purchase of radio-signal utility meters for $960,000.

Approved Main Street funding budget of $3,000 for the month of August. The funds come from a special assessment on downtown properties for the Main Street district.

Entered an $800 contract with Body By Kay for aerobic lessons at the Jackson Street Community Center.

Approved the claims docket.