Tree House back open following shooting incident

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The owner of the Tree House, 1837 Cherry St., and city officials have reached an agreement involving increased security at the business.

The building, which is rented out for private parties, receptions, banquets and reunions, was closed early Sunday morning after police responded to a report of a fight with shots fired.

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Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said he met Wednesday with Tree House LLC owner Eric Lawson to discuss the situation, calling the meeting cordial and professional.

“I commend Mr. Lawson for his willingness to work with the city of Vicksburg as it relates to this matter,” Flaggs said after the meeting. He said the business is reopened.

Lawson, who has owned the Tree House for about five years, said 90 percent of his business is banquets, wedding receptions and reunions, adding he can have a public party if he wishes.

He said he was at the Tree House during the weekend event, which was a public party, adding, “All the guidelines were followed as far as the city or the police department. There was inside and outside security, ample amount of security.

“Every time we have a public party, the police are notified by me per phone call to the watch commander in advance,” he said. “We always ask for extra patrols and for them to come in and out of the building whenever they felt the need. All of that was already done; I don’t know if they (police) were there outside, but they were asked to be.”

Lawson said the party closed down at 1 a.m.

He said he did not see a fight in the building because he went to turn the building’s lights on. He said there was a disturbance during closing and a security guard ushered the two parties involved outside. At one point, he said, “I think a couple of guys wanted to come back in who had walked out, so there was a little bit of friction there, but it (the party) was already over and I don’t think they realized it.

“I was at the front door and never heard shots. If the police were in the parking lot they would have heard them, but they never said they heard them; they were asking if shots were shots fired.”

Under the terms of the agreement with the city, Lawson agrees to improve the security and operation of events at the property to prevent violent or illegal activities and ensure the safety of patrons.

That includes:

• Setting the minimum age for admission to any public event at 25.

• Checking all identification at the door for nighttime events and ending all events at 2 a.m., with the lights coming on at 1:45 a.m.

• Provide security cameras inside and outside the building, and provide Police Chief Milton Moore an installation schedule.

• Have a minimum of two security guards per 100 people at public events. Security will screen each person with handheld metal detectors and security will be inside and outside the building.

• Patrons leaving the public event and returning will be screened again by security besides paying another entrance fee if applicable.

• If any false or misleading information is found on the lease agreement the event will be cancelled immediately and all people leave the property. Any lessee or customer for private events must follow the regulations with the exception of the age limit.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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