Weekend slaying may renew Macon council's look at nightclub safety

The fatal shooting near a nightclub early Sunday has Macon City Council members thinking of ways to make bars more safe.

Two months ago, council’s Public Safety Committee dismissed a police department request to make seven clubs close earlier. Committee chairman Virgil Watkins Jr. said he’s still open to ideas.

“If they have something they think could prevent it, we will revisit it,” he said. “If they have any recommendations to make our streets look safer, yeah, we’ll take those up.”

But Watkins and other council members said the details of the incidents are important. The police department spokesman, Sgt. Zac Self, said officers have gotten conflicting reports about whether Zachary Blasingame, 25, had gone inside Club Money’s before he was shot repeatedly in his car about 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

Self said officers also are investigating whether the dispute that led to Blasingame’s slaying had started in another nightclub in unincorporated Bibb County.

“We’re investigating all leads at this time,” Self said Monday.

Watkins said he needs to know more about the incident before he knows what the council should do.

“It’s kind of hard for me to blame the club owner if there’s no incidents inside that led to it,” he said.

Lonnie Miley, who also serves on the Public Safety Committee, said police need to use existing nuisance laws to go after problematic businesses. He said it would be unfair to other businesses to change closing times, which now are 2 a.m. for the last drink and 3 a.m. for everyone to leave the bar. Club Money’s was one of seven businesses that had a total of 151 calls for law enforcement — including 22 fights and two homicides — between November 2008 and Aug. 1.

“If you’re having a problem with a certain location, then deal with that location,” Miley said.

Nancy White, another committee member, said she’s willing to consider anything that could cut crime — but suspects changing closing times won’t affect the problems.

“The people who end up in these fights and scuffles aren’t the regular patrons,” she said. “They’re going to be there anyway, whether you close an hour earlier or an hour later.”

In September, police Capt. Robert Grabowski told committee members that “the lagging behind and the gathering in the parking lot is what’s causing these fights.”

Blasingame, of a Log Cabin Drive address, was shot multiple times at close range, Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones said. Citing an ongoing investigation, police are not releasing the details from Monday’s autopsy.

Diamond Lewis, a spokeswoman for Club Money’s, said the shooting happened off the club’s property in an adjacent lot sometimes used for overflow parking.

The club is at 4740 Pio Nono Ave.; that parking lot is at 4700 Pio Nono Ave.

“They never entered the club. All of this took place in the parking lot, which is right next to Club Money’s parking lot,” she said. She said the club extended its condolences to Blasingame’s family, even though the shooting didn’t happen at the club.

A police report states the attacker, described only as a black man, walked up to the driver’s side of Blasingame’s Ford Crown Victoria: “He asked Blasingame if he was ‘Flame’ and then shot Blasingame four or five times.

The shooter got into a black Honda and headed north on Pio Nono.”

Blasingame was pronounced dead at The Medical Center of Central Georgia less than an hour later, at 4:26 a.m. Witnesses said the gunman’s car was a Honda Accord.

Several officers reported finding a “very unorganized crime scene,” where relatives and friends were trying to get close to Blasingame and someone gave permission for club patrons to leave the scene.

Self said he hadn’t had a chance to read those reports and could not comment on them.

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was used in this report.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.