No arrest in Sunset murder
WARREN – While police detectives continue interviewing witnesses and reviewing interior video footage of the New Year’s Eve celebration at the Sunset Lounge, city leaders say they are preparing nuisance abatement action against the bar where a 25-year-old local man was gunned down early Tuesday.
Trumbull County Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk ruled Wednesday that Cory Blackwell, 25, of Francis Street S.E., died of multiple gunshot wounds. He declared the death a homicide.
Police said initially they believed that gunfire erupted just after 2 a.m. inside the Sunset after a fight on the dance floor during the New Year’s party. Blackwell was found outside the bar near frozen patches of blood on the sidewalk near the East Market Street and Elm Road intersection.
He was taken to Trumbull Memorial Hospital, where he later died.
Police reports Wednesday indicated that a 26-year-old local woman, Danee Williams of Parkman Road S.W., also suffered a gunshot wound of the foot at the Sunset about the same time that Blackwell was shot. Police were called to Trumbull Memorial Hospital between 5 and 6 p.m. Tuesday – when Williams showed up for treatment on what officers described as an apparent minor injury.
The homicide marked a quick start to the city’s 2013 murder tally and followed the Nov. 11 murder of Marco Dukes, 32, of Warren, who was killed in a barrage of gunfire on Elm Court, a block away from the bar. Two men have been charged with Dukes’ murder.
Blackwell had two drug possession cases pending in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. A grand jury ”no billed” – chose not to indict – Blackwell in July of 2011 on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon.
In April of 2008, Blackwell was sentenced to 12 months in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of possession of cocaine and attempted intimidation of a witness.
The shooting Tuesday is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding the popular night spot, giving city officials yet another reason to fight to have the club closed down. Some officials have gone so far as to call the club a nuisance.
Warren police received more than 20 calls for service to the Sunset from May through August in reference to fights, vehicle theft, a traffic accident, suspicious vehicles and people, disturbances and alarms, according to reports. Tuesday was the first shooting reported inside the business.
City officials said they intend to object to the renewal of a liquor license for the operators of the Sunset at a hearing scheduled later this year.
And after Blackwell’s murder, city leaders have called for quicker legal action in the form of a nuisance abatement action to shut down the business.
The city last year forced the shutdown of several massage parlors, or spas, with similar nuisance actions filed in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.
Mayor Doug Franklin said the city successfully used the nuisance ordinance to close the Benji Brown bar in 2008 after it received numerous complaints about the business.
“It is a multi-part process to close a business down based on it being a nuisance, including it having multiple police reports, citizen, neighbor and other businesses complaints, ” Franklin said.
Councilman Greg Bartholomew, D-4th Ward, said closing the bar as a nuisance for a year will give them increased ammunition in the effort to remove the liquor license from the bar. The city has been asking the state not to renew the liquor license for the bar because of numerous past incidences at the location.
“We hope to take action to close the bar down as a nuisance before the end of the week,” Bartholomew said.
Sunset Lounge is located in Bartholomew’s ward.
Bartholomew hopes the latest shootings will not affect an effort by some local businessmen to improve downtown Warren’s image by placing commercials on a local cable station highlighting various businesses and safety.
The councilman told council that Time Warner cable agreed to provide commercials highlighting the positives of the downtown area.
“We are hoping that people will realize that much of what has been happening in recent months have centered around one place and if we are able to close it under the nuisance law that is being addressed,” Bartholomew said.
Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said discussions are ongoing with Joe Sankey Jr., owner of the building, about the status of Sunset Lounge.
Tribune Chronicle Reporter Raymond L. Smith contributed to this story.