Nov. 17, 2010 12:00

Lawyer for LAX Gentlemen´s Club contests allegation that staff tried to cover up shooting

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The NC Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission has suspended the liquor license held by LAX Gentlemen’s Club, a strip club owned by entrepreneur Rocco Scarfone. A Nov. 12 Order of Summary Suspension signed by Chairman Jonathan S. Williams, based on allegations by the Greensboro Police Department and Alcohol Law Enforcement, found that after a patron was shot on Nov. 7, “security at the business refused to notify emergency services that a person had sustained gunshot wounds” and “that when Greensboro police officers arrived at the business to investigate, they were told by the night manager, Quinton Jones, that no shots had been fired at the business and there had not been a fight at the business.

“Mr. Jones instructed security personnel to clean the crime scene before police arrived and told police that the business did not have a working surveillance system,” the order continues.

A Nov. 13 press release issued from Raleigh characterizes club management’s response to the shooting as a “cover-up” and quotes Williams as saying, “The sworn affidavits received by the ABC Commission indicate that this business failed to assist victims of violence in their own parking lot and then covered up the shooting and destroyed evidence.

The apparent disregard by this business for a life-threatening injury and solving a serious violent crime is prompting the commission to exercise its authority and duty to immediately suspend the permits of LAX to sell alcohol.”

The summary suspension was made under the commission’s “Last Call” initiative. The press release indicates that eight such suspensions have taken place across the state since October 2009.

Affidavits indicate that Guilford Metro Communications was notified of a possible shooting at the nightclub after an off-duty Greensboro police department interviewed a friend of the victim, Demeterre Fox, who said they had been drinking at LAX just before the shooting occurred.

Greensboro police Officer MK Lone states in an affidavit that when he arrived at the back parking lot of the club, “I found several wet areas on the lot smelling of bleach. I observed a Toyota Camry parked near the building with blood smears along the passenger side door and side mirror, and blood on the sidewalk.”

Lone and three other law enforcement agents stated in affidavits: “I feel that the continued operation of the business will result in more injuries to citizens.”

Jones, 29, faces a misdemeanor resisting public officer charge in Guilford County court. Scarfone said on Monday that Jones, who is a resident of High Point, has been terminated.

“He should have called the police even if everyone left,” Scarfone said. “That is protocol. Our protocol is if there is any incident to call the police. Absolutely 110 percent.”

Scarfone referred all questions about the cover-up allegation to Amiel Rossabi, a lawyer hired by R and A Entertainment — the company doing business as LAX Gentlemen’s Club — to assist the police with the investigation. R and A has also hired Raleigh lawyer William Potter to assist to assist in getting the club’s liquor license restored.

“It’s absolutely false,” Rossabi said of the cover-up allegation. “Even before I got involved, the first thing Rocky did was directed [staff] to give [police] the videotape. That’s where they got a lot of the information. The next morning, Rocky got me involved. I proceeded to get all the employees in for an interview.”

Rossabi said Jones and another employee initially denied involvement in the cleanup, but the surveillance tape told another story.

Rossabi said that a fight occurred in the club, prompting security to move the combatants outside. The security video shows a lot of people outside in the parking lot at one stage, Rossabi said, adding that witnesses reported hearing two or three shots.

“The next thing you see on the video is everyone taking cover and going inside the club,” Rossabi said. “What Quinton did when he brought everybody in, he said, ‘This was scary; I’d never seen anything like this.’ By the time he goes back out, the guys involved in the shooting went away.”

A warrant for Jones’ arrest tells a different story. One of the elements of the charge of resisting a public officer is that Jones allegedly refused “to render aid or contact 911 to get the victim medical assistance,” and in doing so, “unlawfully and willingly did resist, delay and obstruct” her from discharging her duties. The warrant also accuses Jones of cleaning the crime scene and “failing to notify the police when they arrived that a shooting had occurred and refusing to assist with information.”

An affidavit submitted by Pate to the ABC Commission states that LAX patron Robert Hargrove told her that he and Demeterre Fox were having drinks at the club when a physical altercation began and they were escorted

out into the parking lot. The affidavit states that “while in the parking lot, Hargrove heard two shots, turned looked at Fox and Fox stood there looking back at Hargrove before collapsing on the crowd. Contrary to the account put forward by Rossabi, Hargrove told Pate that club security “told him they were not going to call 911 (EMS) and that he needed to drive Fox to the hospital himself.”

A review of Guilford County court records indicates that Hargrove, 23, has a total of 77 charges, including one pending charge of misdemeanor assault by pointing a gun, while Fox, also 23, has a total of 64 charges, including a pending charges of felony maintaining vehicle or dwelling place for controlled substances.

Rossabi said R & A Entertainment takes responsibility for training its staff to adequately handle security, but the shooting was beyond its control.

“What security did was make sure nothing happened in the club or outside the club,” Rossabi said. “When people got in their cars and fled, that’s what they want: They want the people involved in the fight to leave.”

At the time of the shooting, Scarfone was already under scrutiny for a shooting that took place outside of another of his establishments, the N Club on South Elm Street. The shooting came a day before a previously planned press conference in which Scarfone would announce a name change of the venue and formatting changes to attract an older, more upscale clientele. Downtown property owners such as Milton Kern are calling for the N Club to be shut down. The controversy has gotten the attention of District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny, who is pushing for a raft of new regulations on downtown nightlife.

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