Sheriff fires deputy after shooting

WARREN – Even though a Trumbull County sheriff’s deputy, who has since been fired, was among numerous witnesses present during an early-morning fatal shooting in a downtown nightclub New Year’s Day, city police said they are further from an arrest than they were nearly two weeks ago.

According to a police report, Alvin Jennings, 31, of 2715 Dunstan Drive, was at the Sunset Lounge when 25-year-old Cory D. Blackwell was gunned down inside the East Market Street club. The police report lists the Sunset Lounge as Jennings’ employer at the time.

However, the morning of the shooting, Jennings was also employed by the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office as a reserve deputy sheriff.

On Tuesday, Sheriff Thomas Altiere confirmed that he has since terminated Jennings.

”He wasn’t supposed to be there,” Altiere said. ”We have policies against that and he violated that.”

Altiere explained that county sheriff employees are prohibited from working, even when they are off duty, at a ”liquor establishment.”

Additionally, employees are required to make a request with his office and receive approval before accepting a second position anywhere, even when the position doesn’t involve alcohol or carrying a weapon. Altiere said Jennings never made a request to work at the Sunset.

Security came into question Tuesday when attorney Dennis DiMartino, who represents Sunset and the building’s owner, Joseph Sankey, complained that one problem the club encountered was the Warren Police Department’s failure to respond to a written request for off-duty officers to work there.

”He (Police Chief Tim Bowers) has been sitting on it,” DiMartino said.

DiMartino said the Sheriff’s Office would not provide security because Bowers had yet to make a decision. DiMartino then said a sheriff’s deputy and another man were working security when Blackwell was killed.

Later Tuesday, Bowers said his department did respond to Sunset’s request but could not come to terms with the owner.

Warren Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa concurred, explaining that the Sunset did not meet the city’s criteria including pay rates and insurance requirements. Cantalamessa did not have the specific numbers readily available.

Warren City Council has asked the Ohio Department of Liquor Control to not renew the Sunset’s liquor license because of more than two dozen police calls there since May.

After the shooting, the city agreed to not file for a nuisance abatement against the business in exchange for Sankey closing Sunset temporarily.

At that time, city police said they anticipated making an arrest soon in the Blackwell shooting. However, on Tuesday, police said that despite questioning numerous individuals and pursuing several leads, the case remains under investigation.

Jennings confirmed he was working security for the club at the time of the shooting, but was not acting on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office. He said he did not have Altiere’s authorization to work at the club.

He said police have questioned him about the shooting, but he cannot discuss it because it is an open investigation. He said he was unarmed.

”I regret being there,” Jennings said. ”I lost my job and it’s just not worth it. But more than that, to be there when someone is killed and not be able to do anything to stop it. I just regret it.”

The second security guard, Desmond D. Rhodes, 31, of 2733 Dunstan Drive, said he did not have a weapon. He also said there was nothing he could do to stop the shooting.