Palmetto nightclub shooting unsolved 2 years later

jdeleon@bradenton.comSeptember 8, 2013 

PALMETTO -- Nearly two years after the massive shooting that rocked a Palmetto nightclub and left two dead and 22 injured, the police investigation continues.

At about 12:30 a.m. on Sept. 10, 2011, at least two armed suspects sprayed the crowd outside Club Elite at 704 10th St. W., Palmetto, with at least 35 to 40 bullets as they drove by.

The shootings left Trayon Goff, 25, of Palmetto, and Gwenette Matthews, 38, both dead.

"We wish we could say we have made arrests," Palmetto Police Deputy Chief Tyler said. "It still is very much an active case."

Tyler said the department is constantly looking at and reviewing the case. Additionally, the Palmetto Police Department is now working with the newly formed Manatee County Homicide Task Force.

"We have not had new information in a couple months," Tyler said. "We have ideas of why this happened and who is responsible."

The department still wishes not to name any "persons of interest" out of fears that it will interfere with the investigation.

"We definitely have people that we believe were involved, but we don't have enough evidence to make an arrest," Tyler said. "We do not believe it was a random act of violence, we believe it was targeted."

Police continue to keep hushed on potential motives.

"The vast majority of people that were there were not targets," Tyler said.

Despite the time that has elapsed, the department has not given up on finding the suspects.

"We are constantly comparing it to other shootings and homicides," Tyler said. "I know it's been two years, but we do believe we will ultimately solve it."

Since the shootings, two civil lawsuits have been filed against the corporation behind Club Elite.

The first suit was filed April 30 against Illusions Restaurant and Lounge and owner Walter Presha by Matthews' family and some of the surviving victims. Motions to dismiss filed on June 7 were then responded to with an allegation of inadequate security at the nightclub.

While the case remains open, no further action has been taken.

On Jan. 23, a second civil suit was filed by a survivor of the shooting against Illusions Restaurant and Lounge and Trina Rozier, manager at the time of the shootings. The suit alleges Rozier was negligent in failing to provide adequate security after terminating the off-duty police officers employed for security.

The suit is seeking $15,000 for damages on behalf of the victim. On March 4, a motion to dismiss the complaint was filed, stating the victim failed to prove that Rozier owed her "duty of care."

Illusions and Rozier were served with a summons March 6 but no further action has been taken in the case, which remains open.

Today the building that was the site of what is considered the worst shooting in the history of Manatee County is home to Kevin's Crab Shack.

Tyler said the rewards offered for information in the shootings remain in effect, with a total of $21,000 being offered collectively by CrimeStoppers, Gold Star Club of Manatee County and the Palmetto Community Redevelopment Authority.

Anyone with any information about the shooting is asked to call Detective Chad Oyler at 941-723-4587, ext. 306. Anonymous tips can also be called in to CrimeStoppers at 866-634-TIPS.

Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049.

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