Death at the Foxy Lady: Cleared murder suspect's shooting death pulls focus to strip club on Victory Drive

Man pronounced dead had been acquitted of 2010 murder, charged with auto theft

tstevens@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 27, 2013 

Just 15½ months after he was acquitted of murder in a homicide that occurred in another Columbus high-crime area, 20-year-old Shannon Calvin "Scooter" Fields Jr. was gunned down Wednesday in a Victory Drive nightclub that also has been the site of multiple crimes.

The fatal shooting has authorities reviewing records of other offenses reported at the Foxy Lady Lounge, a 3023 Victory Drive strip club in a building known for the castle-like façade that suited its former name, the Juwan Knight Club.

Acquitted Dec. 12, 2011, in the 917 Decatur Court shotgun slaying of 30-year-old Army veteran Waylon Glenn James Jr., Fields was in the Foxy Lady about 2 a.m. Wednesday when a gunman came in and fired multiple shots, killing Fields and wounding 25-year-old Samuel Lamar Cash, investigators said.

Shot in the right arm and right foot, Cash was treated and released at The Medical Center, police said. Fields was dead at the scene.

Police Lt. John McMichael said Wednesday that detectives had found no link between Fields' homicide and the James' slaying in which Fields had been accused, but investigators feel the gunman deliberately targeted Fields, whatever the motive.

Lawyer recalls Fields

Columbus attorney Stacey Jackson, who represented Fields during his 2011 murder trial, remembered him as a polite young man who had a supportive family, including a fiancé and two children.

"I saw him to be a nice young man, very respectful, always said 'Yes sir,' 'No sir,' to me -- just a humble guy, quiet," Jackson recalled. "He had a boy, who I think was around toddler age, and a girl. He was a family man. I've seen him personally with his children, other than at the office -- like at the mall and different places like that."

Jackson said Fields' parents and grandmother stood by Fields during his trial. "I hate to see something like this happen to him, leaving two children without a father," Jackson said.

Fields went to trial with two alleged accomplices in James' robbery and homicide, which occurred on June 15, 2010. When the trial was over, the only one convicted of James' murder was Willie T. "Jack" Jones, then 36, whom Superior Court Judge John Allen sentenced to life in prison without parole on charges of murder, armed robbery and using a firearm to commit a crime.

Jurors deliberated nine hours, having heard conflicting testimony from witnesses, some of whom had criminal records. Detectives had found weapons and black clothing they believed the robbers used, but police had no forensic evidence tying the men to the murder.

Fields' girlfriend at the time, Britanny Sturgis, testified in his defense, saying he was at her house the night James was killed, arriving there around midnight. Police found James dead about 12:40 a.m.

They had witnesses who said Jones was the robber who blasted James in the head with a shotgun while robbing him of $3,000 cash and a .9 mm pistol. Fields was accused of assisting Jones.

While finding Fields innocent of murder and using a firearm in a crime, the jury deadlocked on Fields' armed robbery charge, which prosecutors later dropped.

Fields was arrested on another charge while out on $30,000 bond awaiting his murder trial. Police pulled him over for driving a car with an expired tag and discovered the vehicle had been stolen. He pleaded guilty Aug. 6, 2012, to theft by receiving stolen property, and was sentenced to five years' probation and 120 hours of community service.

Drawing notice

James' murder was one of two that occurred within a year at 917 Decatur Court. A second victim, 36-year-old Harold Tynes, was gunned down on Aug. 12, 2011.

The multiple crimes reported there prompted authorities to warn the property owner and manager that the city would take action if the trend continued. Now the Foxy Lady may attract that same notice. It often has been the crime scene cited in police reports.

Early Sunday morning, a man reported his 2002 Ford Mustang stolen from the parking lot of the Foxy Lady after he had left his keys in the ignition with the doors locked. Glass from a smashed-out window was on the ground.

In October 2012, a club employee reported the theft of a $700 Louis Vuitton handbag and $300 in cash as she left the club after 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

In May 2012, manager Walter James Clark Jr. and three dancers were arrested for violating the city's nude dancing ordinance.

About a month later, in June, police officers used a stun gun to arrest a man running from the club. A month after that, in July, a man was shot in the buttocks outside the club about 1 a.m.

In April 2008, early on a Saturday, a Columbus man was shot multiple times in the head, stomach and leg after a fight at the club.

Crime fighter reacts

"It puts a bad face on the Victory Drive area of town," said the Rev. Willie Phillips, a civil rights activist with two local groups, Winterfield on the Move Against Drugs and Stop the Violence. "People don't want to go out there because they're afraid they'll get shot or robbed."

Phillips, who had lobbied for the closing of nearby Club Majestic off Cusseta Road, the site of the city's first homicide of 2013, wants to shut down businesses in the area that attract crime.

"One thing I know, that place needs to shut down," he said Wednesday of the Foxy Lady. "It's time for city officials -- they talk about crime prevention -- they need to stand up and say, 'Enough is enough.' We need help in South Columbus with the crime problem. If this had happened in another part of town these businesses would have been closed."

He said he's met with Mayor Teresa Tomlinson on several occasions and she has helped solve problems with a trailer park and a liquor store off Cusseta Road.

"I am happy so far with what she's done but I believe she could do more and more quickly," Phillips said. "If they close these places and solve the problem more quickly some of these club owners might say, 'Hey, this mayor's serious.'"

Focus on Foxy Lady

Tomlinson said she has asked the police department to pull all incident reports concerning the club and any ABC violations that have been alleged. She said she can't speculate on what action she might take until she sees those reports.

In regard to being more proactive in addressing clubs with reputations for criminal activity, Tomlinson said she will not take the drastic step of asking Columbus Council to revoke a club's license, or take any other punitive action, unless the situation warrants it.

"We're not out there looking to pull people's liquor licenses," she said. "We're waiting for those offenses that violate the standards that you have to meet in order to hold those privileges."

In the past, Tomlinson has used the force of law to address problem areas that produce inordinate amounts of criminal activity.

Most recently, following the New Years Eve shooting death of a Columbus State University student at Club Majestic on Cusseta Road, Tomlinson sent a certified letter to the club's owner, James Weaver Jr., in February. In it, she warned Weaver that if "persistent criminal activity" at the club did not cease, the city would at least shut the club down and possibly confiscate the property, as is allowed under state law.

Early this month, the mayor cited the criminal activity and alcohol violations against the club on the night of the slaying and asked Columbus Council to revoke the club's liquor license. Council voted unanimously to do so, effectively closing down the nightclub.

Back to Decatur Court

Tomlinson has also gone after two apartment complexes that had become chronic havens for criminal activity -- including 917 Decatur Court, where Fields was accused of participating in the robbery that led to James' death.

In September of 2011, Tomlinson sent a letter to the owners of the apartment complex off Rigdon Road, threatening legal action.

In a certified letter to Charles Brown, chief executive officer of KC Brown Properties, which owns the complex, and to Karen L. Shaul, the registered agent for the company, Tomlinson called the complex "a chronic site of criminal activity," and warned that state law allows cities to confiscate such properties if the problem persists.

Tomlinson has since said the complex "stabilized" and no longer hosts the kind of activity it once did.

In October of 2011, Tomlinson sent a similar letter to the owners of a small apartment complex called the Wade Street Apartments. Police referred to the small enclave of one-bedroom cinder block cottages as "The Hole," because of persistent drug and prostitution activity and violent crime.

Tomlinson's letter put the owners on notice that the property was considered a "chronic site of criminal and derelict activity," and that the city would pursue legal action against them if the activity continued. The letter included 27 police incident reports of violent, sexual or drug-related criminal activity at the complex.

Almost a year after the letter was sent, in August of 2012, Tomlinson said police had been called to the complex another 27 times on those kinds of reports. The city then bought the complex for $112,000 -- $14,000 below its fair market value -- and demolished it.

"I never thought this would be my mark as mayor, revoking liquor licenses and condemning properties that become criminal havens," Tomlinson said. "But I do think that it's a tool that's perhaps been under-utilized in the past."

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