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Ybor City's Empire Night Club faces two lawsuits from October shooting

YBOR CITY — Empire Night Club faces two lawsuits in the wake of an October shooting that killed a father of four and injured another man.

The estate of Leslie Jerome Jones Jr. and the man who was injured — Ahmaud Black — are each suing the now-closed club for damages in excess of $15,000.

Empire's employees had a duty to provide a "safe place to gather" and should have screened patrons for firearms, according to a complaint filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court.

Minutes before Empire closed on Oct. 2, Jones, 20, was in the club's VIP room when a bullet struck and killed him, police said. Black, 19, was shot in the chest and seriously wounded.

Police haven't arrested anyone or named any suspects.

Empire, formerly at 1902 E Seventh Ave., closed in November. It lost too many patrons after the shooting and couldn't continue to operate, an attorney for the club said at the time.

That isn't stopping Morgan & Morgan attorney Darryl Rouson from pursuing damages for his clients. The club has insurance and it's important to keep club owners accountable, he said Monday.

The violence at Empire and a shooting at another Ybor night spot, Club Manilla that left five people wounded, have prompted the Tampa City Council to explore tougher regulations on nightclubs, including a possible ban on patrons younger than 21.

The council will discuss its options at a May 24 meeting.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Ybor City's Empire Night Club faces two lawsuits from October shooting 02/13/12 [Last modified: Monday, February 13, 2012 8:07pm]
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