Sunday, March 11, 2012

Shootings prompt changes in East St. Louis liquor sales

From BY PHILLIP O'CONNOR • > 314-340-8321 | Posted: Sunday, March 11, 2012 4:14 pm

EAST ST. LOUIS • Two shootings over the weekend outside two nightclubs left one man dead, two wounded and prompted the city on Sunday to suspend non-casino liquor sales after 1 a.m. until further notice.

The earlier closing hours marked an about face by Mayor Alvin Parks, who last month rejected a call by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, to rein in the city’s club scene.

"Ultimately, the city of East St. Louis will do whatever it deems necessary to bring about an environment that is as healthy and as safe as it can be,’’ Parks said in a written statement released Sunday.

About 4 a.m. Saturday two men, ages 21 and 27, were shot as they walked to their car in the 200 block of Collinsville Avenue after leaving the nearby Club Flava, according to East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Floore.

"Apparently, they had gotten into it with some other guys during the course of the night," Floore said. "A car pulled up and opened fire on the two guys."

The men, both of St. Louis, were taken to an undisclosed hospital with what Floore described as non-life threatening wounds. Police have not located the suspects, whom Floore said are also from St. Louis, and fled the scene in a gold-colored vehicle.

The second shooting happened about 4 a.m. Sunday in the 100 block of Collinsville. The victim, Steven H. Holmes, 23, of East St. Louis was shot as he walked to his vehicle in the parking lot behind Club 103 after being denied entry.

He died later at a hospital. Police say a suspect in the second shooting remained at large Sunday afternoon.

Not long after Holmes was killed, shots were fired at three East St. Louis homes. It’s unclear whether those shootings were connected to Holmes’ death, Floore said.

After the shootings near the two entertainment venues, East St. Louis police spokeswoman Francella Jackson said the city had suspended all non-casino liquor sales after 1 a.m. until further notice. She says it was done "in order to restabilize the community’s health and safety."

The city also suspended Club 103’s liquor license and Club Flava’s business license until disciplinary hearings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Both hearings could lead to license revocations and closure of the businesses, a city press release said.

Parks was in the audience last month when Durbin criticized the city for not doing enough to crack down on late-night liquor store sales and club operations, which he said create an "atmosphere of violence."

East St. Louis has one of the highest crime rates in the country, according to statistics. Durbin said the city’s crime rate is four times the state average and twice that of the city of Chicago.

Parks resisted Durbin's pleas, saying the clubs had already been reined in by requiring them to have extra security.

He also said sales tax the clubs bring in helped fuel the local economy and said he hoped Durbin would find federal money to help the city hire more police officers.

Floore, the police chief, said community marches and other measures had been undertaken to try to stop the violence.

"But obviously that’s not happening," he said. "We need more officers."