An early Saturday morning shootout among patrons outside a Huber Heights bar with a troubled history left two men dead, one injured and renewed pleas from police, city leaders and business owners to have the establishment closed for good.
Police said Charles W. Bell III, 25, of Dayton, and Keenan Hall, 20, of Dayton died from gunshot wounds they suffered outside the Heat Nightclub after a fight inside spilled into the parking lot before 3 a.m. at the 6115 Brandt Pike establishment. The shooting occurred just hours after families left a traveling carnival that is set up in the parking lot.
The identities of the third injured victim has not been released. The victim was treated at Miami Valley Hospital and released earlier in the day.
Police said no suspects have been identified, but they are looking for a black or dark-colored SUV seen speeding from the parking lot as police arrived. When Huber Heights police arrived at Heat Nightclub just before 3 a.m., vehicles were exiting the parking lot at high rates of speed. They asked for assistance from area police agencies due to the number of people and “volatility of the scene,” police said.
The Montgomery County Coroner’s office removed Bell’s body from the bloody scene around 7:45 a.m., and several bullet-hole riddled vehicles were towed from the parking lot as part of the police investigation. Bell’s relatives could not be reached for comment.
Hall was prounonced dead by the Montgomery County Coroner at 1:45 a.m. Sunday morning after he was listed in critical condition at Miami Valley Hospital throughout the day Saturday.
After the fatal shooting, city officials again called for the club to be permanently shut down. Since it opened in November 2010, it has been the subject of excessive 911 calls for extra patrol, traffic stops, noise complaints, illegal drugs and assaults. Police responded to 217 calls related to the nightclub between April 1, 2012, to April 9 this year, according to the most recent data available.
The city has spent the past year fighting without success to prevent Heat Nightclub’s liquor license from being renewed.
Heat Nightclub manager Jessica Kennedy, who has previously said her club has been unfairly scrutinized by the police, did not return calls for comment. The property is owned by an out-of-state management company, and the owners did not return messages.
Homicide renews city’s fight
Just last month, a Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge upheld a decision by the Ohio Liquor Control Commission to renew the Heat Nightclub’s liquor license.
The city’s deadline to object to the club’s liquor license renewal was May 2. The city declined to file an appeal with the Division of Liquor Control, citing it would be “better off aggressively managing the nuisance rather than succeeding in court, because I don’t think we can (succeed in court),” city attorney Alan Schaeffer said at a recent council meeting.
The city has spent more than $11,000 during the past year fighting Heat Nightclub’s liquor license. Schaeffer said it would have been a “waste of city resources” to appeal the judge’s decision.
In light of Saturday’s fatal shooting, Mike Bly, a member of the city’s legal counsel, said the city will ask the Division of Liquor Control to “step up their investigation efforts within the club.”
“It’s hard for a uniformed officer to go into an establishment and find active liquor violations,” Bly said. “If the liquor control investigative unit goes in there as an undercover operation, I believe they’d see flagrant violations of the liquor control law.”
The club has had liquor operating privileges since Dec. 12, when the state commission reversed a decision by the Division of Liquor Control to reject renewing the club’s liquor license. Prior to the reversal, the club had not been permitted to sell alcohol between Nov. 1 and Dec. 11.
Heat Nightclub typically is open Friday through Sunday nights, and the club also hosts non-alcoholic events for teenagers usually on Saturday nights, according to its social media websites. On its Heat Nightclub’s teen Facebook page, the social media operator wrote that Friday night was not a teen event.
Opponents of the nightclub have created social media solicitations on Facebook and Change.org to get it closed. Since the shooting, the websites have attracted hundreds of followers.
Local businesses remain fearful
“We have shown repeatedly through testimony that Heat Nightclub’s ongoing operation poses a substantial risk to the public’s safety, health and welfare,” Bly said. “This is the perfect example of why we need the Liquor Control Commission to do what they’re supposed to do.”
Huber Heights Mayor Ron Fisher, who has been vocal about shutting down the nightclub, visited the scene Saturday.
“I’m appalled at the fact that the liquor board could sit up there and hear testimony on both sides, and there’s absolutely no reason for them to allow them to have their liquor license,” Fisher said. “Why do we put up with this? I think this is enough evidence.
“Do we have no control over our own destiny?” he added. “I’m not against bars or clubs, but there were warning signals and everybody just ignored them.”
Messages left Saturday with the Liquor Control Commission and Division of Liquor Control were not returned.
Business owners near Heat Nightclub expressed concerns about the shooting and the club’s continued problems.
Kathy Murphy, who owns Bark of the Town, a salon and day spa for pets, said she received phone calls from clients Saturday morning asking if her business was still open. She said when she opens her business after weekends, the parking lot is littered with glass and trash from Heat Nightclub’s weekend events.
“I do think they need to be out of business and have their liquor license taken away,” Murphy said.
For the last two weekends, Paul Murray, owner of Murray Brothers Shows, has set up carnival rides in the shopping center’s parking lot. He said one of his employees woke him up and alerted him that police were on the scene following the shootout. The carnival closes at 11 p.m., he said.
“They are open when we are not open, which is great,” Murray said. “We haven’t had any problems (with the area). It’s just an issue with the bar. It’s not a very good bar. I hope it’s enough to make it go away.”
While Dollar General employees declined to comment, they said the police activity forced them to delay opening.
Anyone with information on the fatal shooting is asked to contact Huber Heights police Detective Jeffrey Colvin at (937) 237-3593.
Staff writer Tom Stafford contributed to this report.
The history of Heat Nightclub
Summer 2010: Huber Heights City Council objects to Heat Nightclub’s application for a liquor license to open within the city. The Ohio Liquor Control Commission later approves the license after club owners file an appeal.
November 2010: Heat Nightclub opens at 6115 Brandt Pike.
July 2011: Evan Dixon, 24, is shot in the club’s parking lot about 2:30 a.m. after a fight apparently starts inside the club and spills out into the parking lot.
March 2012: Council unanimously objects to Heat Nightclub’s liquor license renewal because of excessive police calls to the establishment, and files the objection with the Ohio Division of Liquor Control.
Oct. 24, 2012: Based on a hearing July 31, the Division of Liquor Control rejects Heat Nightclub’s liquor license renewal. The nightclub appeals the division’s decision with the state commission.
November 2012: The city files a pair of objections with the state commission requesting that Heat Nightclub not be permitted to sell alcohol.
Nov. 3, 2012: A large brawl ensues at Heat Nightclub that includes gunshots. No injuries were reported and no one was arrested. Police later found four .40-caliber shell casings in the parking lot.
Nov. 9, 2012: The LCC denies Heat Nightclub’s request to continue operating with a liquor license during the appeal process.
December 2012: The LCC reverses the Division of Liquor Control’s decision and allows a liquor license for the club. Huber Heights appeals that decision in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
April 2013: A Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge upholds the LCC’s decision.
Saturday: An early morning shooting outside Heat Nightclub leaves one man dead and two others injured.
Sunday: Huber Heights police confirm the second victim, Keenan Hall, 20, of Dayton has died after he was shot.
The Dayton Daily News has been covering Heat Nightclub’s troubles ever since Huber Heights City Council objected to its liquor license renewal in March 2012. We will continue to follow this story closely and bring you the latest updates as they develop.