A police forensic team surveys the site of the March 16 shooting on Second Street NW in front of the Elks Lodge.
Moments after the March 16 shooting, one of the two men involved lies bleeding and handcuffed against a telephone poll on Second Street NW.
More than two weeks after a late-night shootout on Second Street NW outside the Elks Lodge left two men shot and wounded on the street, police say no charges have been filed and the investigation is still ongoing. There's been neither widespread public outcry nor city action concerning the violence, but internally police and city officials have taken notice.
"The City Manager and I have had no fewer than two meetings in the last week or so to discuss how to go forward with this in an aggressive, but lawful manner," says Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo.
According to data from the Charlottesville Police Department, the March 16 incident, which occurred as a crowd exited a Friday night party at the Lodge, is the latest in a long history of mayhem outside the Elks Lodge, located next door to Fellini's #9 restaurant. In 2011 alone, there were 54 police calls to that address for a variety of charges including assault, larceny, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, and drug violations. Since 2008, according to the data, there have been roughly 150 police calls to service to that location.
Not to be confused with the "Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks," the "Improved Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks," of which the Rivanna Lodge #195 is an affiliate, is an African-American fraternal organization modeled on the BPOE, which originally denied membership to blacks. The BPOE opened membership to African-Americans in the 1970s, but the two organizations have remained separate. According to city records, the Rivanna Lodge #195 purchased the property on Second Street NW in 1920 for $3,000. Today, the two-story, 2,400-square-foot building and the lot it sits on is assessed at $441,000.
"Our discussions have not been limited to the Elks club," says City Manager Maurice Jones, alluding to other recent violent incidents in the city, such as the March 25 brawl outside Buffalo Wild Wings during which shots were fired and two men were stabbed. "However," Jones adds, "we will be reaching out to the owners of the club to discuss what may be done to reduce the calls for service there."
Repeated messages left for Elks Lodge management have not been returned.
Dr. M. Rick Turner, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, says that feelings are mixed among the African-American community in Charlottesville regarding the Elks Club.
"Some think we should get rid of the place," he says, "while others think its a great social outlet in the Downtown area."
Turner also reminds a reporter that violence outside clubs and restaurants is not just an Elks Club issue, but a city-wide issue, as such incidents happen at other places as well.
"The Elks Club on Second Street is a Charlottesville institution," says Charles Alexander, one of the "Charlottesville 12," the first group of black students to enter all-white schools in 1959, who is now a motivational speaker. "When I couldn't play basketball for Lane High School, it was the Elks team I played for at Carver Rec."
Alexander says that the the Elks Club has been invaluable to the community for many years, and that its unfortunate that the focus on this one event diminishes that. The problem, he says, is "people rage."
"People are on the edge, and we're all walking time bombs these days," he says," no matter what your skin color or where you are. This kind of thing could happen just as easily at Fellini's or anywhere else."
According to a search warrant filed in Charlottesville Circuit Court, during the March 16 incident, police believe that Leon T. Brock, 22, of Culpeper County, was shot by Frank D. Brown, 56, of Albemarle County, after Brock and several other men tried to jump him. Charlottesville Police Officer Alex Bruner, who happened to be on the scene, allegedly fired his weapon at Brown twice after warning him to drop his weapon. Brown and Brock survived their wounds and were released from the UVA Medical Center. Bruner remains on administrative leave pending the investigation.
Such incidents are not unfamiliar to Jacie Dunkle, owner of Fellini's #9 restaurant. On New Year's Eve 2011, as a party was held at the Elk's Lodge, a man was shot in front of the nearby Brown's Lock on Market Street. Dunkle and her customers had to stay in her restaurant until 4am as police gathered evidence. She's had plenty of other problems with parties at the Elks Lodge.
"Fighting is part of the norm on Friday nights when there is a party there, and there's a lot of drinking," says Dunkle. "I have to call the police at least two Fridays every month due to some fight or disturbance that threatens my employees and customers."
After such incidents, Dunkle says, it quiets down considerably at the Elks Lodge, as police pay closer attention, but eventually the vigilance diminishes, and the "mayhem starts again," she says.
This time, however, it appears that the police and the City may take more aggressive action. Chief Longo says he has been meeting with ABC representatives and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office to discuss a strategy to more definitively deal with this issue, but there has been no decision yet on what that strategy will be.
Currently, the Elks Lodge has an active Beer on Premise license, according to Maureen Haney with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
"This means that they may sell only beer to their customers who are consuming it in the club," says Haney. "They may not sell wine or mixed beverages, and they may not sell beer to be taken away from the club." Guests can, however, legally bring in their own alcohol, says Haney, "as long as the club has some form of license such as a beer license."
"It's imperative that we deal with this," says City Councilor Kristen Szakos. "The property owners have a responsibility to control such events, and obviously that's not happening."
Dunkle says she's putting up cameras in hopes of deterring the violence, but she thinks it really comes down to the personal responsibility of those who attend Elks Lodge events, and the responsibility of the property owners who allow it. Dunkle says she's tried to start a dialogue with Elks president Pete Carey, but so far that dialogue has not been productive, she says.
"I think we need to require them to have security at such events," suggests Szakos. "It's not the job of the police to be security guards for parties."
"It's a touchy issue," says Turner. "How responsible should restaurant and club owners be for what happens outside, when members and customers leave?"
Still, because of the history of incidents at the club, and the fear that such shootings cause in the community, Turner thinks it's time to talk.
"I think a discussion needs to take place with the Elks members, the surrounding property owners, and the wider community," he says.