The Rock Inn Restaurant wasn’t busy at the moment, but proprietor Jason Warren had plenty on his mind Monday afternoon.
The grim front page headline on Sunday’s newspaper lying on the counter spoke for him.
His community, too.
The shock waves from Saturday’s early morning shooting rampage at Club Elite on 10th Street West had not subsided.
Far from it.
“Twenty-two people getting shot and two dead,” Warren said. “You can’t imagine something like this happening in small town Palmetto.”
Not the Palmetto he grew up in, the one in which his family’s soul food restaurant on Second Avenue East has been in business for 60 years.
“For two gunmen to walk in there, nothing over their faces, it’s like, ‘Come get me. I’m going to do what I want to do and you can’t do anything about it and I don’t care who I hurt. So what are you going to do about it?’” Warren said.
“Then you do it with no remorse? You do it on the outside and then go on inside and cause havoc? Come on, man. You know the people you were shooting at had nothing to do with this.
“Even if you’re going after certain individuals, why would you take it out on innocent people -- somebody’s mother, grandmother, father? That doesn’t make any sense.”
Warren is still mourning his mother’s passing three weeks ago.
He realizes how valuable life is.
How short it is, too.
So Warren took what happened at Club Elite personally.
“For someone to go out and show such little regard for human life, these people need to be off the streets,” he said. “If you’re willing to kill that many people, who’s going to be next? What’s stopping them from doing it anywhere they want to?”
That notion sent chills through Tony Stephens, the long time athletic director at the Palmetto Youth Center.
“We had a football game Saturday at the youth center and if the people involved had been at the game that could’ve happened right out there,” he said. “Unfortunately, we do have people who don’t value someone else’s life and the people doing these things, whatever the issues are, they feel like they can deal with it wherever.”
Even a popular gathering place like Club Elite.
It was a typically crowded Saturday morning when at least two gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons on people massed at the establishment’s front entrance about 12:30 a.m.
Dr. Scott Maloney, who’s had a dental practice in Palmetto for 28 years, shuddered at the brazen attack.
“It’s scary, very scary. It happened in a public place. Was it a personal vendetta against somebody inside? They were looking for somebody and took out a whole bunch more,” he said. “People want to assemble at a club like that for entertainment. We start having crime like that affecting innocent citizens, something’s got to be done.”
Steve White wasn’t surprised at what happened.
His service station on Eight Avenue West has been a Palmetto institution for 32 years.
He’s also a former Palmetto policeman.
“With the gangs and drug dealings going on, the guns getting bigger and fancier, I expected it a long time ago,” White said. “I’d say it’s retaliation for something -- drug deal, gang. It is what it is. Every community has it, a sign of the times.
“They’ve taken power away from parents, teachers and policemen and this is the end result. We’re getting worse and worse.”
Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL. 34206 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a phone number for verification purposes.