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Police: Chapel Hill Nightclub Shooting May Be Gang-Related

Posted October 1, 2007
Updated October 3, 2007

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— Police and area business owners are worried that a shooting at a Chapel Hill nightclub that left six people injured might be gang-related.

Hundreds of people were inside Visions Nite Club, at 136 E. Rosemary St., around 1 a.m. Monday, police said. An argument got out of control, and the shooter, who might have used a 9 mm handgun, fired six rounds, injuring two security workers and four patrons.

"Everyone tried to get out at the same time, so it was mass hysteria," Lt. Kevin Gunter, with the Chapel Hill Police Department said.

In the low lighting and the confusion, the shooter managed to leave the club shortly after firing, Gunter said.

The six victims went to UNC Hospitals and Duke University Hospital with non-life-threatening gun wounds. All had been released as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Police identified the victims as Rowland Garrett, 21, of Durham, a Visions security employee; Maurio Mitchell, 25, of Durham; Roy Parker, 21, of Raleigh, a Visions security employee; Marcus Dorty, 27, of Durham; Kenneth Lunsford, 20, of Durham; and a 16-year-old from Durham who was not identified by police.

Police did not have a suspect or motive Monday evening, but learned that some of the victims have known affiliations with local gangs.

"In this particular location, we've had suspicions about some possible gang activity," Gunter said.

Police have been called to Visions, a members-only club, 30 times since January for complaints ranging from assault to trespassing to drunken and disruptive conduct. The club replaced another nightclub, Chi Hi, which had its liquor license removed after a number of shootings outside the club.

The owner of Visions did not returned calls placed by WRAL on Monday.

Business owners said they're worried about the amount of violence connected with the downtown night scene in recent years.

"The first thing I thought was maybe my place had bullets in it," said George Tomasic, whose Tar Heel Barber Style Shop is next door to Visions. He said he worries this kind of violence will cut into downtown profits.

"It won't be good for the businesses at night. That's for sure, because it will make people think before they come downtown," Tomasic said.

At Sutton's Drugs, John Woodard said he's concerned about the perception of crime and Chapel Hill.

"I'd like to see better control of it. Frankly, I'd like to seem them shut it (the club) down," he said.

Last year, the city shut down another nearby nightclub, citing a "grave safety risk" to nearby residents. In July 2006, a man died alter being shot 12 times outside Club Avalon, and two men were beaten up inside it.

Mayor Kevin Foye said town officials will review the circumstances of Monday's shooting to determine where responsibility lies. He said the town has to be aggressive when it comes to violence.

"We've got to be tough. Places that either promote it or tolerate it, we're gonna shut down," Foye said.

Anyone with information about the shooting should call the Chapel Hill Police Department at 919-968-2760 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515. Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential and anonymous, and the caller might be eligible for a cash reward up to $1,200 for information that leads to arrest.