Police say teen killed outside downtown Macon lounge was likely innocent bystander

lfabian@macon.comJuly 5, 2013 

A fight inside a downtown bikini bar led to deadly gunfire that spilled out into an underground parking deck early Friday in downtown Macon.

About 3:30 a.m., 17-year-old Jamonni Bland was shot dead outside the Zodiac Lounge at the Riverview Event Center near the corner of Walnut Street and Broadway, Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones said.

“There is nothing to suggest that he was involved in any of this, at this time,” interim Macon Police Chief Mike Carswell said at a news conference 12 hours after the shooting.

Gary Lester, a veterans advocate who lives and works at the Riverview Hotel upstairs from the club, said he fled the lounge when the fight started.

He watched a man retrieve a weapon from a car outside before the gunman headed back into the nightclub.

“I saw the guy put the clip in the gun and I ran upstairs in my office and called 911,” Lester said. “I told police, ‘Send somebody quick!’ Bullets flying, I know they heard the shots.”

Lester said he heard about 20 shots while he was on the phone with dispatchers.

“I said, ‘Look, I’ve got to hang up,’ and I hit the floor.”

He told the coroner, “two or three guys had guns.”

Late Friday afternoon, police released photographs of two men they want to question in the case and asked for the public’s help in identifying them.

Carswell said gang violence has not been ruled out.

“We are investigating all possibilities for a motive in this shooting,” he said during his news conference.

Three others were wounded in the shooting, including 21-year-old Deion Davis, who initially refused to give his name, Jones said.

Police say Davis was involved in the fight, which club security broke up.

Lester said a security officer was tending to the fight when the initial gunman got back inside with the weapon.

“The security guard got off the door when the fight started, and the guy ran back in the club with a gun,” he said.

When shooting started inside the Zodiac, Davis was critically hurt with six gunshot wounds. He was being treated in the Emergency Center at The Medical Center of Central Georgia, Jones said.

Due to the severity of his injuries, investigators had not been able to talk to him as of Friday afternoon.

More shots were fired on the deck and Andre Bonner, 30, was shot in the neck. He, too, was taken to the Medical Center, Jones said.

One of the victims went by ambulance, and the other was taken to the hospital in a private vehicle.

A third victim, 25-year-old Steven Billue, was shot in the left shoulder. He was being treated in the emergency room of Coliseum Medical Centers.

‘Smooth and chill vibe’

Macon police crime scene investigators put several evidence markers down on the pavement in the parking garage under the hotel.

Bland’s family gathered at the scene, where about three dozen people milled about as police gathered evidence and talked to witnesses.

A crumpled, special edition Budweiser can decorated in red, white and blue sat on an old desk outside the unmarked, underground entrance to the nightclub.

The Zodiac Lounge, which held its grand opening Thanksgiving night, is billed as having “a smooth and chill vibe,” according to a posting on www.clubplanet.com.

“It’s not the kind of place where you’ll be dancing on tables, but it’s no dive bar, either. A good mix of laid-back decor and casual comfort,” the review said.

The club’s Facebook page indicates it is “an after-hour spot for the 25 & UP” that is open from midnight until 6 a.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Property manager Kelron Howard said males have to be at least 25, but women 21 and older are allowed.

“This is to avoid what happened last night,” Howard said Friday afternoon. “It’s kind of a maturity level.”

It is unclear how Davis, who is 21, was admitted.

“No telling,” Howard said. “The security guys might have slipped him in.”

Management said the club remains open to serve food and provide entertainment after the bar closes. A city ordinance prohibits alcohol sales and consumption after 2 a.m.

The deceased was underage, and police have not been able to determine whether he was ever in the club.

Howard said Bland was putting postcards on cars in the parking lot to advertise for a promoter’s events scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

Out of respect for the victims, the Zodiac Lounge will be closed at least until Wednesday, he said.

“Our main concern is the victims,” Howard said.

In an email to The Telegraph, management expressed condolences to all the families and said it is cooperating with police.

At the chief’s news conference, when asked about talk of nude dancing at the club, Carswell said police would look into that and the club’s crowd control at the conclusion of the shooting investigation.

Howard denied the allegations.

“There’s never been any nude dancing there,” he said. “They can check my tapes from when we open until we close.”

Anyone with information about the surveillance photographs of the two men wanted for questioning is asked to call Macon Regional CrimeStoppers at (877) 68CRIME.

A lounge on the same property, in a previous incarnation as the Zodiac in 1976, was the place where murderer Ronald Keith Spivey holed up after gunning down a man in an argument over a game of pool at the Brown House Hotel.

At the lounge, which earlier housed an S&S Cafeteria, Spivey fired five shots and robbed a barmaid. He fled to Columbus, killed an off-duty policeman and took a woman hostage before he was caught in Alabama.

Spivey was sent to death row for killing the cop and was executed in 2002.

Staff writer Joe Kovac Jr. and Telegraph archives contributed to this report. To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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