Police probe nightclub shooting
Mark Webb/The Herald-Dispatch
Huntington police block off the 800 block of 4th Avenue after a shooting occurred at Club Babylon at approximately 3:06 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, 2009, in Huntington.
HUNTINGTON -- A Huntington Police officer shot and killed a man inside a 4th Avenue nightclub early Sunday, and three others sustained gunshot wounds in an exchange of gunfire outside the bar.
Investigators are still trying to piece together details of the shootings, which erupted shortly after 3 a.m. outside Club Babylon, 831 4th Ave., and apparently ended inside the bar, Police Chief Skip Holbrook said during a news conference Sunday afternoon.
What is known is that Joe Jermaine Porter, 30, of Huntington, was shot by an officer inside the bar, Holbrook said. The officer shot Porter because he had a handgun and pointed it at the officer, Holbrook said. Porter was pronounced dead at Cabell Huntington Hospital about 6 a.m. Sunday, Holbrook said.
Holbrook declined to say where Porter was shot on his body or how many times he was shot. He also declined to name the officer involved in the shooting.
"We're trying to ensure we have all of the information necessary before we release the officer's name," he said. "We want to give him time to notify family and seek necessary assistance before he's hit with a barrage of questions by people other than police. It's nothing more than that."
In addition to the ongoing criminal investigation, the Police Department will conduct an internal investigation into the shooting involving the officer, Holbrook said. The officer will be placed on administrative leave, which is routine during an internal investigation, he said.
The shooting comes just three weeks after Huntington Police Patrolman Richard Kern shot a 29-year-old man at a Speedway gas station at 6th Avenue and Hal Greer Boulevard.
That incident remains under investigation, although police have said Kern acted in self defense after a man pulled a weapon on him and attempted to shoot him. Walter Thomas Wilson, 29, was charged with felony wanton endangerment. He was released from an area hospital 11 days after the shooting and booked into the Western Regional Jail.
Holbrook said an officer who was patrolling 4th Avenue early Sunday was about a half-block away when he heard gunshots in front of Club Babylon. Three people were found outside the bar with gunshot wounds when the officer arrived, he said.
Reginald Marbury, 25, a Huntington resident and Michigan native, was shot in the left knee. He was being treated Sunday afternoon at a local hospital for minor injuries.
Sontezz Lomax, 29, a lifelong Huntington resident, was shot in the right shoulder and right buttocks. He was treated and released from a hospital Sunday afternoon, but was arrested on an unrelated charge.
Christopher Lewis, 28, a Marshall University student and Thurmond, Ohio, resident, was shot in the left leg. He was being treated Sunday at a local hospital for non-life threatening injuries.
None of the three men who were shot outside the bar has been ruled out as a suspect in the investigation, and detectives are still trying to determine who shot them, Holbrook said.
Fourth Avenue between 8th and 9th streets, a parking lot across from Club Babylon and a section of the alley behind the parking lot remained closed to pedestrians and vehicles through Sunday evening as investigators processed the crime scene.
The Police Department is working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to analyze shell casings and projectiles found inside and outside the bar. The ballistics on the casings and projectiles should be ready by the end of this week, Holbrook said.
Police also are looking into whether any surveillance footage from Club Babylon or neighboring businesses is available, Holbrook said. There were no city-operated surveillance cameras in the area, as officials have been planning for more than a year now.
Police also are investigating whether a second shooting Sunday morning at 1025 25th St. is related to the Club Babylon shooting, Holbrook said. No one was injured in that incident, but the residence was struck with gunfire multiple times, he said.
Police are still working on a motive for the shootings, but at least two Club Babylon employees said they may have been spurred by an argument over liquor.
A bartender who declined to give his name said a large group of men came into the bar shortly before closing time Sunday and ordered about $300 worth of shots. One of the men started taking shots off of the bar without paying for them, which initiated an argument between the man and the bartender and bar owner, the bartender said.
Another man in the group began arguing with the man who was trying to take the liquor without paying for it, the bartender said.
"They started pushing each other, but the bouncers broke it up," the bartender said. "There were about 10 guys in the large group that left the bar at that point. The next thing I knew I was hitting the deck because a bunch of guys had knocked the two bouncers down at the front door and started shooting up the place."
The bartender said he crawled to a small room behind the bar with five or six coworkers and patrons and locked the door.
"From the first round of gunfire to the last, I'm guessing it went on for 15 to 20 minutes," the bartender said. "It was sporadic gunfire. It wasn't continuous. I heard what I guess was a police officer yell, 'Surrender your weapon,' and another person yell, 'No, no, no.'
"I don't know what happened during that time we were locked in that room, but when we walked out the bar was demolished."
A female bartender who refused to give her name said she feared for her life during the incident.
"I was thinking to myself the whole time that I was going to die," said the bartender, who was one of the employees locked in the room behind the bar. "The people who were firing guns were so close to the door. You couldn't tell if they were going to come through it."
Both bartenders said Sunday's shooting was the second in as many months at Club Babylon. Someone fired a few rounds into the air about a month ago, but no one was injured, they said.
Mike Foust, the principal owner of Club Babylon, voluntarily surrendered his liquor license to authorities Sunday and intends on closing the bar, Holbrook said. Foust could not be reached for comment Sunday evening