Share “Club violence arises”

By Devona Walker Published: March 23, 2008
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Many city nightclubs scarred by violence are doing their best to keep trouble at bay.

All are manned by stalwart doormen. Many search patrons upon entry for guns or drugs. Some enforce dress codes designed to weed out young troublemakers — prohibiting sneakers, baseball caps, sports jerseys and even baggy clothing. A few clubs forbid entry to anyone under 25.

Law enforcement officers blame the violence that happens inside clubs and in their parking lots on youthful immaturity and alcohol, on the city's growing gang problem or on the number of guns on the street. But solutions to the growing problem remain elusive.

"Every week there seems to be a situation where a child's life is taken. It's like even before these children are able to smell a little bit of life, their life is gone,” said Oklahoma City Councilor Skip Kelly, Ward 7.

"If you have a child, you tremble any time your child is not in front of you. You wonder if anywhere the child goes is safe. And the few places the children have to go, they are the same places where these children are being killed,” Kelly said.

About a month ago, Kascey McClelland, 19, was gunned down in the parking lot of Club Zax, which caters to a hip-hop crowd most weekends. McClelland died a week after the shooting, his internal organs shut down from the trauma of six bullets. The night after he was shot, an unidentified woman was also shot near the club. The next weekend, a 23-year-old man was killed at another all-ages venue called The Hive in Tulsa.

Last year, former Oklahoma State University standout Darrent Williams was gunned down outside a Denver nightclub after a reported altercation with gang members. The 24-year-old had just completed his second season in the NFL.

Two years ago, three teens — Basal Gunter, 19, Markee Smith, 18 and Isaiah Fields, 16 — were shot while leaving City Nights, an Oklahoma City "all ages music hall.”

In July of the same year, two shootings in the Bricktown entertainment district pushed officials to institute a curfew. Again, authorities blamed the shooting on juvenile gangs.

In January 2006, a 27-year-old Hurricane Katrina evacuee killed Glen Palmer, 20, and Anthony Jones, 19, and injured a third after an altercation at the former Fritzie's music hall.

At the time, the business was owned by the same people who own City Nights. In recent years it has operated under new ownership as Topanga's. Local law enforcement officers say it remains one of the bloodier venues in the city.

In the last year alone, the Oklahoma City Police Department responded to more than 700 calls at just six of the city's nightclubs. Many were minor disturbances or public drunkenness, but there were dozens of serious complaints including at least two suicide attempts, 25 assaults, a kidnapping, a report of an abandoned child and at least a dozen grand larcenies.

Dying young
Kascey McClelland graduated from high school in 2007.

He worked two jobs. His former teachers say he was a good-hearted kid. His friends say he was as one of the most giving people they've known.

It was just a few months ago that he moved out of his parents' home and into an apartment with his older brother, his first real taste of independence. His stepfather, David Murphy, said even after McClellan moved out, he could count on hearing him coming through the Murphys' front door every day and walking straight back to the kitchen during his lunch break from Integris Hospital.

"He was so excited to be grown up. He was so excited and determined about life,” he said. "He never had any hesitations, any fears at all.”

From 1998 to 2006, there were 442 homicides in Oklahoma City. About 355 of those crimes were solved.

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