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Statesboro shutters pair of trouble-plagued clubs

POSTED: November 18, 2013 6:21 p.m.

STATESBORO — In the wake of a Nov. 10 fatal shooting at a Statesboro nightclub, a discussion between Statesboro city officials and police led to the forced closure of two clubs with a history of violent incidents.

Johnnie L. Benton, 25, of Rincon, was killed and Jamal Heard, 21, also of Rincon, was wounded when an unknown gunman opened fire at Primetime Lounge on Northside Drive.

A homicide at Platinum Lounge, located on Proctor Street adjacent to Maxway, remains yet unsolved. On Aug. 19, 2012, Akeila Roschell Martin, 32, of Statesboro, was fatally shot and another woman injured as an unknown man fired shots into a huge crowd outside the club.

Wednesday, police padlocked the doors to both businesses, about a mile from each other, as part of a temporary injunction to close both clubs.

The nightclubs are a danger to citizens, cost taxpayers because of excessive need for police response, and are a public nuisance, Statesboro city attorney J. Alvin Leaphart IV said in a civil suit calling for the businesses to cease operation.

Bulloch County Superior Court Judge John R. Turner signed the injunctions, and a hearing on the matter is scheduled for Dec. 10.

Notices were given to Heyward Arthur Fields and HAF Enterprises, who owns Platinum Lounge, and to Karen Pittman Brown of Bulloch Investors LLC, who owns Primetime Lounge, regarding the order to close, Leaphart stated in the civil actions.

Leaphart also cited public complaints of noise and disturbance as well as repeated violence at each establishment.

The injunctions followed a discussion earlier this week between Statesboro police Maj. Scott Brunson, Capt. Thomas Woodrum, City Manager Frank Parker, Mayor Joe Brannen, councilmen Will Britt and Gary Lewis, and himself, Leaphart said Thursday.

The need for action was apparent following the two fatal shootings and consistent violations requiring police response, he said.
In the civil petition, Leaphart, speaking on behalf of the city of Statesboro, says both clubs have kept citizens awake late at night and attract people who cause trouble.

The clubs are “frequented by patrons who come out of the place of business fighting with and without deadly weapons, making undue noise, and littering,” the documents read.

Since October 2011, the petition says, there has been a marked increase in “crimes against property and persons” and “excessive calls” for law enforcement involvement, he said.

In addition to the fatal shooting at Primetime Lounge, other recent acts of violence include shots fired early Sunday morning by an unknown gunman at Platinum Lounge, with bullets striking another business nearby. Just over an hour later, the fatal shooting and the shooting injury of another victim took place at Primetime Lounge, police said.

In addition to the August 2012 shooting that killed Martin at Platinum Lounge, police responded to reports of shots fired there on Jan. 29, 2012; Nov. 6, 2012; and July 21, 2011, Leaphart states in the petition.

Before Benton was killed Sunday at Primetime Lounge, police responded to the club 26 times this year, the petition reads. In April, the filing says, a man at the club was arrested for fighting and carrying a concealed weapon.

Other violations at both clubs include public intoxication, theft, property damage, simple battery, terroristic threats, criminal trespass, simple assault and drug possession, according to incident reports from the Statesboro Police Department.

In addition to being a public nuisance, the clubs are costly to taxpayers because of their excessive need for police patrol, Leaphart said.

The clubs “create unnecessary and undue financial burden on the City of Statesboro ... (and) tax paying citizenry,” he wrote. Conditions at the clubs are “manifestly injurious to public health and safety, ... (and) constitute a public nuisance.”

Primetime Lounge manager Eurl D. Kittles and Brown were not able to be reached Wednesday or Thursday. Calls to attorney Martin C. Purtz, who represents Kittles and Brown, were not returned.

Stephen Rushing, an attorney representing Fields, did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday.

A contact number for Fields was not found. Brown did not respond to messages left Tuesday and Thursday at a contact number for her.


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