Crime

Testimony: Cigar flick sparked Wings Cafe shooting that killed three

A man accused of being second in command of Macon’s Blacc Team gang allegedly flicked a cigar at a rival gang, sparking the fight at Wings Cafe that left three people dead.

Emmanuel McGhee, 27, is charged with three counts of murder and one count of violating Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act in connection with the fatal shootout Dec. 12.

Authorities have alleged that two gangs, the Blacc Team and the Crips, were involved in the melee. Six men have been charged. Corey Hollingshed, 25; George Henley, 34; and Derrick Jackson, 38, were fatally shot. Henley’s girlfriend, 23-year-old Nastajah Taylor, was shot several times, but she survived.

Authorities have said that Hollingshed was a Crips member.

McGhee appeared in Bibb County Magistrate Court on Wednesday for a commitment hearing, a time when police testify about evidence in the case and are questioned by a defense attorney. A judge decides whether enough probable cause exists for a case to move forward.

Bernadette Crucilla, McGhee’s lawyer, repeatedly asked Bibb County sheriff’s Detective Cedric Penson to describe her client’s involvement in the fight at the Bloomfield Road nightclub.

Penson said McGhee was seen on surveillance video whispering in a huddle of alleged Blacc Team members before they entered the club, where alleged Crips members were already inside.

A security guard has told deputies he warned the group not to go into inside because he knew of a prior incident between the two gangs, Penson said.

The alleged Blacc Team members went in anyway and lined up “like an old warrior fight,” he said.

“When he flicked that cigar his team, as well as the other opposing team, collided and things just sparked on from that point.”

A witness has said McGhee and other Blacc Team members had been involved in another nightclub altercation with the same Crips members two days before the Wings Cafe shooting, in which braids were snatched out of a person’s head, Penson said.

“Based on what we can see from the video, the Blacc Team knew they were walking into trouble,” he said of the Wings episode. “They had a plan.”

There was another incident at Wings Cafe about two months before the shooting that involved the two gangs, Penson said.

A close friend of McGhee’s has admitted that he and McGhee are Blacc Team members, but he described the group as a community organization that helps needy families and holds charity events, he said.

The two groups have been feuding since at least the 2010 shooting death of Rodrion Gary, a Blacc Team member, during a battle between Crips and Blacc Team members on Village Green Lane, authorities have said.

After hearing about 10 minutes of testimony, the judge ruled there’s enough probable cause and moved the case forward to Bibb County Superior Court.

Speaking after the hearing, Crucilla said there doesn’t appear to be hard evidence that McGhee participated in or intentionally encouraged anyone to start the fight.

“I think it’s one more example that if you’re a young black man in Macon and there is a crime committed, you’re going to be (accused of being) a member of a gang,” she said.

TRIAL DATE SET

Alleged Blacc Team members Ken­yata Norreece Lester, 30; Markques Patterson, 30; Vertuice Wall Jr., 39; and Eric Watkins, 29, were indicted in March in the Wings Cafe killings.

Jaquez Terrance Foster, 24, an alleged Crips member, was named in a separate indictment stemming from the same incident.

McGhee, who was arrested in April, has not been indicted.

Jury selection for a trial in the case is scheduled to begin Aug. 3.

Watkins’ lawyer filed a motion April 16 demanding a speedy trial for his client.

The motion put the court system on notice that if Watkins isn’t tried within two terms of court, he will be cleared.

Another lawyer who represents Lester filed a motion April 27 asking that his client be tried separately from the others charged in the case. A judge is set to hear arguments on motions in the case July 9 and 10.

All six men are being held at the Bibb County jail without bond.

Jackson’s widow has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the club, seeking more than $1.1 million, alleging that the club and other unnamed defendants were negligent in not providing better security despite prior incidents.

Wings Cafe closed after the shootings and agreed in January not to reopen for two years after politicians sought a review of the business’ alcohol license.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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