Help prevent another senseless shooting spree

BRADENTON HERALD EDITORIAL | Authorities need information to stop the violence

September 14, 2011 

Many questions surround the deeply disturbing display of violence at a nightclub on a major arterial in Palmetto early Saturday morning. In this horrifying case of urban warfare, two men sprayed gunfire into a crowd milling about outside Club Elite, killing two people and wounding 22 others.

Bullets pierced the club’s outer walls and stole the life of Gwenette Matthews, a 38-year-old mother and grandmother. Outside the front door, 25-year-old Trayon Goff suffered fatal gunshots.

Nearby, neighbors at home ducked for cover upon hearing shot after shot, some coming from a powerful AK-47 assault rifle. Bullet holes riddled the club’s walls.

What possesses an individual to descend into such utter disrespect for human life? Revenge is suspected as a motive in this case, but that doesn’t explain the indiscriminate nature of the gunfire.

And what’s next? More gangland-style blazing guns reminiscent of the Prohibition-era crime syndicates from the 1920s and ’30s? Community members are rightly terrified of that prospect.

As such, witnesses should come forward, with the hopes of putting an end to this before more people lose their lives. Though scared of retribution, witnesses can provide information anonymously and remain out of the spotlight. The authorities need all the help they can get.

Saturday’s toll could have been far worse. Palmetto Police Chief Rick Wells stated the city was fortunate that more victims did not suffer critical wounds. Indeed.

Manatee Memorial Hospital must have been a scene of sheer bedlam upon receiving 16 of the gunshot victims. The hospital went into lock-down, certainly a wise precaution against more violence.

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has joined the Palmetto Police Department investigation into Saturday’s mind-boggling shooting spree, a much appreciated move given the fact that this violence could spread beyond Palmetto. The more law enforcement resources put on this case, the better.

Walter L. “Mickey” Presha Sr., president of the company that operates Club Elite and the owner of the property, announced Monday that the place will not reopen as a bar -- a wise and considerate action.

A prominent community leader as chief executive of Manatee County Rural Health Services, Presha and his daughter, Trina Presha Rosier, have been distraught since the incident occurred.

This past spring, Rosier, who ran the club, stopped hiring off-duty Palmetto police officers to patrol the exterior, sidewalk and parking lots -- a safeguard that in hindsight looks ill-advised, especially since police responded to more than 200 calls there over the past two years. But nobody could foresee such a mass shooting.

Citizens must get involved to stop this senseless violence, else it persist. Call Palmetto police Lt. Scott Tyler at (941) 723-4587, ext. 6140, or Manatee County Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-8477. Crime Stopper callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.

We urge witnesses and anyone with information to step up in our community’s fight against violence.

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