Crowd control plans could not prevent gun violence outside Club Lotus in Downtown Greensboro

by Jeff Sykes

Patrick Simmons was a student at Elizabeth City State University.
Via Twitter

A Hertford County man visiting friends and relatives in the Triad was shot to death late Saturday night in a developing section of Downtown Greensboro despite the presence of seven additional police officers in the area for crowd control.A police spokesperson said that Club Lotus on West Lewis Street had hired four off-duty police officers to work security at the club on Saturday night. Three on-duty Greensboro Police Department officers were assigned to work crowd control, police spokesperson Susan Danielsen said. Additionally, GPD had its regular compliment of nine officers from the Center City Resource Team in the area as patrons left the club.Despite the planned police presence, authorities say that Jermaine Marqel Couch, of 704 Glendale Dr., and 19-year-old Patrick Simmons, of Ahoskie, North Carolina, engaged in a verbal altercation as they left the club.Police do not know the topic or nature of the dispute at this time, Danielsen said, but “it escalated very quickly into that fatal shooting.”Club Lotus was at the center of a firestorm last year when patrons leaving the club in early November exchanged gunfire in the middle of Elm Street with patrons from another downtown club at the intersection with Lewis Street. City council quickly developed an enhanced club security ordinance, which was passed and then suspended amid complaints of favoritism from club owners. At that time, 28 clubs were identified as being subjected to the new ordinance, which would have required tiered layers of armed security proportional to the club’s occupancy level.Danielsen said she wasn’t familiar with the specific steps Club Lotus had taken since last November’s incident to improve patron safety, but that club owners had hired the additional off-duty officers, and the department assigned additional staff, because the performer that night was expected to draw a large crowd. Danielsen said there was no indication that Couch had the weapon on him inside the club. Police declined to release any details about the weapon.The shooting occurred at 2:18 a.m., police said.The additional staff did make a difference in allowing police to readily apprehend the shooter. “Because we had additional officers there, and a good traffic control plan in place at the time of the shooting, those additional resources were critical in quickly identifying the subject,” Danielsen said. A police officer was in the proximity of the victim when the shot rang out. Danielsen said there was one shot fired and that Simmons was struck one time. Other information about the injuries is being withheld pending confirmation by an autopsy.”We had an officer who was very close to the young man who lost his life at the time of the shooting,” Danielsen said. “There were enough officers there that we were able to quickly cordon off the area and contain it so people could not leave the scene.”The restricted movement, combined with witness descriptions, helped police apprehend Couch. Danielsen declined to elaborate on the witness statements.Simmons was a 2014 graduate of Hertford County High School, according to Roanoke-Chowan News Herald. He was a student at Elizabeth City State University. The university said that Simmons was a sophomore studying Pharmaceutical Science. Friends and family on social media mourned his death on Sunday, often describing him as a positive young person focused on future success.