Police, family split on club closure

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 12, 2014

While law enforcement officials in Opp continue to investigate Sunday’s deadly shooting of Demetrice Hines at a nightclub, opinions are split over whether the facility itself should shoulder a portion of the blame for the weekend’s violence.

Julia Crittenden’s son, James Danshay Edwards, was one of four people injured in Sunday’s incident – and is the only surviving victim to have sustained a gunshot wound, according to police. Crittenden said it was the shooter, not the location, that was to blame.

“It’s not the place, it’s the people,” Crittenden said.

Edwards’ brother, Joshua Bill Edwards, agreed.

“The guy just had the intention to shoot something that night,” he said. “That’s why he brought a gun in.”

Joshua Edwards said he has been taking care of his brother since the incident, adding he is recovering well from gunshot wounds to his shoulder and neck. Both he and Crittenden said they encouraged Edwards to talk to police, although Crittenden was critical of law enforcement’s effectiveness.

“We told him to talk to (the police), because they may not have any other witnesses,” Joshua Edwards said.

“But sometimes it seems like if you aren’t white, the police don’t care,” Crittenden said.

Both Edwards and Crittenden live only blocks from the Little Harlem Club, where Sunday’s deadly shooting became the third homicide Opp Police Chief Mike McDonald said he has worked at or near the nightspot. It is also located in a predominantly black neighborhood in Opp’s District 4.

McDonald said it is people in that community he wants to protect, adding shutting down the club is what he believes needs to be done in order to ensure that safety.

“I have an obligation to protect the people of District 4,” McDonald said. “It’s my duty to do that. I believe we need to have the club’s business license revoked. I have written a letter to the mayor asking for the council’s help.

“This is the third time over the years we’ve investigated a homicide at or near this place,” he said. “Now, we have a 20-year-old dead.”

Opp Mayor John Bartholomew said it is also his contention that the club is a dangerous neighborhood fixture, and its closure would only serve to improve the community. He added, however, that proper channels must be used in order to even begin the process of revoking a business license.

“(District 4 Councilwoman) Mary (Brundidge) came to me and brought to my attention that she’d like to see this place shut down and its business license revoked,” he said.

According to Opp City Ordinance 2007-06, the process for revoking a license includes at least a 10-day notice prior to a hearing concerning the matter.

Bartholomew said, as of now, no decision has been made regarding the matter.