Unlicensed security guard. Two versions of the shooting. More club protests.
Those are the storylines that make up Columbus’ third club-related homicide in 2013.
Darren Gray, 23, is charged with the Saturday morning homicide of Harry Short Jr. at Club Ciroc, 3433 North Lumpkin Road.
Short was pronounced dead at 2:09 a.m. from a gunshot wound to the chest.
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Gray also faces charges of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, failure to meet qualifications to be a licensed armed employee and failure to have a permit to carry a weapon.
Gray was working security at the club Friday night when Short caused a disturbance and was Tased before Gray and another bouncer escorted him out, Gray told the officers.
That’s where Gray’s story becomes muddled, detectives said Monday.
Version 1 goes like this:
Short walked to his car but later approached Gray with a gun. Gray demanded several times that Short drop his weapon before firing twice. Gray caught Short’s .38 automatic mid-air as Short’s body fell to the ground, according to the suspect.
Version 2 was told later, authorities said:
Gray maintained that Short retrieved the gun from his vehicle, but said Short raised his weapon from behind his vehicle’s trunk.
No one, however, reported seeing Short with a gun. Witnesses’ accounts are only that Gray fired two shots at Short after the victim returned from the club’s parking lot, authorities said.
“The victim did raise a firearm at me and try to shoot me,” Gray said during the hearing. “I don’t know if police don’t want the gun to be fingerprinted, or they just haven’t done it, but a gun was recovered.”
In an e-mail Sunday morning, Lt. John McMichael confirmed police have placed the gun Gray said Short was carrying into evidence. No further information about the gun has been released.
Judge Michael Cielinski set no bond for Gray’s murder charge. The bond for his other charges was set at $17,000.
After the hearing, Short’s cousin Willie Farley said he doubts Gray’s version of events.
“To me, it doesn’t make any sense,” Farley said. “If you’ve ever seen anybody shoot a gun and if (Short) was crouching behind a car, how’d he get shot in the chest? How’d he end up in the middle of the parking lot? It makes no sense.”
Farley described Short as a lifelong friend who did not cause trouble and did not frequent Club Ciroc.
“It really doesn’t feel real,” Farley said. “I think that was his first time there. We were neck and neck. He was my boy.”
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said her office has received complaints about Club Ciroc in the past, but mostly for “facilities maintenance” issues such as inadequate outdoor lighting and inadequate parking. While most of the complaints so far have not been related to violence, Tomlinson said the incident Saturday night may take the club to a new level of scrutiny it has not seen before.
“We’ve tried to make it more difficult for people to have these moving bars where basically someone who’s known for throwing great parties moves from one place to the next place, and never have a liquor license,” Tomlinson said. “But anytime there’s an incident, whether it’s an alcohol legality or certainly when harm comes to a patron, you can bet there is going to be tremendously increased scrutiny.”
Along with his wife, civil rights activist Rev. Willie Phillips protested outside of Club Ciroc Sunday morning. Several members of Short’s family later joined, he said. Phillips said he hopes to start organizing weekly protests to make youth more aware of dangerous environments in Columbus’ clubs.
Leader of two community groups, “Winterfield on the Move Against Drugs” and “Stop the Violence,” Phillips has held protests outside of Club Cream, Foxy Lady and Club Majestic after shootings at those locations took two people’s lives and left others wounded.
The Club Majestic shootings, which took place on New Year’s Day and left 24-year-old Charles Foster dead and six others injured, sparked an investigation into the criminal activity surrounding the club. Club owner James Weaver later had his alcoholic beverage license revoked during a Columbus Council meeting March 11.
On March 27, 20-year-old Shannon Calvin Fields Jr. was shot multiple times inside the Foxy Lady. A suspect in that shooting has not been identified due to a lack of description and lack of motive.
Three people, including an officer, sustained nonfatal gunshot wounds in Club Cream at the International Marketplace on May 6. Club Cream manager Sacorey McKelvey and associate Bolivar Glenn were charged with two fire safety violations following the shootings.
Staff writer Mike Owen contributed to this report.