Friday, November 17, 2017
Public safety

Police: Two shot at St. Petersburg nightclub

RECOMMENDED READING


ST. PETERSBURG — The club calls it Top Shelf Tuesday. All you can drink for $20. By closing time, capacity crowds blocked the street outside while the scent of marijuana wafted from inside Scene Premium Night Club, a popular hip-hop spot at 211 Third St. S.

Amid the city's booming nightlife, police say Scene has a reputation for lax security. Some clubs have their own security. Some hire off-duty officers. Scene's owners did neither well, according to police.

It all came to a head early Wednesday morning when gunshots fired inside the club sent hundreds stampeding for the exits.

Officers, weapons drawn, rushed into Scene and found two men shot and wounded just after 2 a.m., police said. They also found marijuana, shoes and cell phones scattered around the club. No arrests were made.

"Scene has been one of our biggest challenges," said St. Petersburg police Maj. Sharon "DeDe" Carron. "We're trying to ensure that they have their business and at the same time we're trying to work with them to make sure that everyone is safe.

"We've been disappointed by their lack of progress in addressing our concerns."

Downtown has thrived since the city pushed closing time back to 3 a.m. in May 2010, but keeping all those new bars safe has been a challenge. Officials say the bar corridor absorbs too much officer overtime, saps police resources and exhausts the cops who keep the alcohol-soaked crowds safe — often from each other.

But St. Petersburg's popularity also depends on it being known as a safe nightspot. Wednesday's shooting threatens that status.

"I am not going to sit idly by while there is a risk of the reputation to the safety of downtown St. Petersburg," said Mayor Bill Foster. "Once you get a bad reputation, it's hard to recover."

• • •

The two wounded men found inside the club were St. Petersburg residents Deonte R. Archer, 23, and Kendric D. Stephens, 22.

Stephens, who was shot in the back and leg, was hospitalized but is expected to live, police said. Archer was shot in the right leg and was treated and released from the hospital.

No suspects have been identified.

Archer told officers he was walking up some stairs when he was pushed from behind. He and the assailant started to fight. Then several gunshots were fired from somewhere inside the club while 800 to 1,000 people partied, police said.

They left in a hurry. Officers confiscated 27 grams of marijuana found in small plastic bags left throughout the club, police said. A "strong odor of marijuana lingered in the air … hours after the shooting," read a police report.

Afterward, officers reported several observations about club security: no off-duty officers were hired; patrons were being allowed in through the side doors; and a doorman told police they were told not to search patrons that night.

"It suggests a lack of due diligence on their part," Carron said.

• • •

But security issues with Scene go much further back.

Richard Fabrizi, Tony Amico and radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem opened the club in August 2010 inside the former theater of American Stage, across from the downtown Publix.

Top Shelf Tuesdays were popular. But police worried about the crowds spilling out onto Third Street S after last call. Officers also smelled marijuana inside Scene every Tuesday, Carron said, and repeatedly warned management about drug use. Eventually, the club agreed to hire off-duty officers and to search entering patrons.

But that cooperation soon ended, Carron said. The bar's manager told the major that the extra security was keeping customers away. A man who identified himself as Fabrizi once asked officers to leave the club, police said. Scene stopped hiring off-duty officers in December, according to police, and as of last month still owed the city $2,555.59 for the officers it had hired.

Fabrizi did not return a call for comment Wednesday. Clem's producer said he had no comment.

In the past, the city tried to let bars voluntarily pay for off-duty officers to defray the city's costs. But that effort fell apart.

So last month city leaders ordered up an ordinance that would force bars to hire off-duty officers based on occupancy. It's modeled after a Tampa ordinance, and St. Petersburg's mayor hopes the City Council will soon consider it.

"We tried to do it with voluntary compliance and that didn't work," Foster said. "Some businesses downtown automatically hire off-duty officers because they care for the safety of their patrons and others don't."

The major said her officers will focus even more on Scene in light of the shooting Wednesday morning.

"Since obviously there were weapons in the club," Carron said, "we need to have a higher presence in the club."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

Comments

Possible wrong-way crash on Courtney Campbell Causeway late Friday

TAMPA — A multi-vehicle crash on the Courtney Campbell Causeway late Friday may have been caused by a driver traveling in the wrong direction, Tampa police said.The crash occurred in the eastbound lanes closer to the Tampa side of the causeway, near ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

TAMPA — Police took one person into custody late Friday after a drive-by shooting ended in Seminole Heights.The incident, which unfolded about 11 p.m., did not appear to be related to the spate of other recent shootings in Seminole Heights that have ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Man hit, killed while crossing U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor

PALM HARBOR — A pedestrian died after he was hit by a vehicle Friday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The man, who was not identified, was crossing U.S. 19 from west to east, north of Tampa Road in Palm Harbor about 8:30 p.m., troopers ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
19 digital billboards now spread word of reward in Seminole Heights killings

19 digital billboards now spread word of reward in Seminole Heights killings

TAMPA — To help spread the word about reward money offered in connection with four unsolved shooting deaths in Seminole Heights, two billboard companies have donated the use of a combined 19 digital billboards.On Thursday, police announced the reward...
Published: 11/17/17

Deputies: No injuries after reported gunshot near Seminole schools

SEMINOLE — Deputies are investigating a report of a gunshot that resulted in two schools being put on lockdown Friday morning. About 8:24 a.m., the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office received a call at Rita’s Italian Ice, 13147 86th Ave., in Seminole. ...
Published: 11/17/17
20 injured in fire at Pennsylvania senior living community

20 injured in fire at Pennsylvania senior living community

WEST CHESTER, Pa. — A massive fire at a senior living community in Pennsylvania injured at least 20 people and forced dozens more, many of whom were unable to walk, into the cold night air. Firefighters were still dousing hot spots Friday, even thoug...
Published: 11/17/17
Watch: Dugan addresses Seminole Heights residents’ concerns at NAACP event

Watch: Dugan addresses Seminole Heights residents’ concerns at NAACP event

TAMPA — Members of the black community expressed appreciation on Thursday for police efforts to find the person responsible for killing four residents of southeast Seminole Heights in recent weeks.But at a meeting organized by the local chapter of th...
Published: 11/17/17
Tampa church warns: We are armed and ready to use deadly force

Tampa church warns: We are armed and ready to use deadly force

If you are an evildoer wishing to bring harm to the members of River at Tampa Bay Church, don’t expect congregants to turn the other cheek.They’ll blast you.So says a sign at the church, at 3738 River International Drive in Tampa, that delivers a sta...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Black residents question arrest spike during search for Seminole Heights killer

Black residents question arrest spike during search for Seminole Heights killer

TAMPA — Members of the black community expressed appreciation on Thursday for police efforts to find the person responsible for killing four residents of southeast Seminole Heights in recent weeks.But at a meeting organized by the local chapter of th...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Middle school student fatally struck in Tampa shortly after exiting school bus

TAMPA — A middle school student died after he was hit by a vehicle Thursday afternoon a short time after getting off of a school bus.According to Hillsborough County deputies, 11-year-old Brandon Heard Jr., a student at Mann Middle School, was struck...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17