Gunfire kills jazz club manager

By John W. Goodwin Jr.


The suspect in the city’s 15th shooting death of the year was arraigned in Youngstown Municipal Court the same day police opened an investigation into the city’s 16th homicide.

Police are trying to determine who gunned down a 43-year-old nightclub manager as he walked to his car about 2:45 a.m. Friday on the city’s South Side.

Curtis Moses left the Partners Jazz and Blues Lounge, 732 Oak Hill Ave., of which he was manager, just before 2:45 a.m. and headed to his car parked near Oak Hill and Falls avenues. Police said an unidentified black male ran toward Moses firing multiple shots, shooting Moses several times.

Moses was taken to St. Elizabeth Health Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The shooter ran down Falls after firing the fatal shots, reports said. As of Friday night, he had not been apprehended.

Police collected 13 spent shell casings from the area near the shooting. Moses’ car and a second car hit by gunfire have been towed for further police inspection.

Police are speaking with witnesses and bar patrons to determine the shooter’s identity. Several people saw the shooting, police added.

Police records show Moses had a few run-ins with law enforcement. He was arrested and charged with driving under suspension in 2009 and with trafficking in marijuana in 2011. During the 2011 arrest, Moses apologized to officers and said he is not a drug dealer but was selling a friend some of his personal stash of marijuana.

Youngstown had only six homicides at this time in 2011.

The city’s 16th shooting death took place on the same day 26-year-old Walter Drake of Hilton Avenue was arraigned in the death of his 24-year-old former friend Dion Weatherspoon, also of Hilton Avenue. Weatherspoon is the city’s 15th homicide victim this year.

Drake appeared Friday afternoon before Judge Elizabeth Kobly of Youngstown Municipal Court for arraignment on a murder charge.

Prosecutors asked the court to impose a $1 million bond.

Atty. Lou DeFabio, representing Drake, told the court the shooting took place in his client’s own front yard, and his client took action in self-defense.

DeFabio said Drake does not have a violent history, and has not been convicted of any felonies. He asked for a $250,000 bond.

Court records show that Drake has faced a list of minor charges in the past, including driving without a license, misconduct at an emergency, playing loud music, possession of drug paraphernalia and falsification.

“I don’t believe the public will be at risk if he is released. He has ties to the area, has kids here, is married and is a homeowner,” DeFabio said.

Judge Kobly, before setting Drake’s $750,000 bond, said the public is always at risk when there is gun use involved. Drake remains in Mahoning County jail.

The shooting occurred at Drake’s house at 246 Hilton Ave. on the South Side about 11:30 a.m. June 13. Weatherspoon was found lying dead in Drake’s driveway, shot six times.

Police have said Drake and Weatherspoon are believed to have been friends at some point. The matter leading to the shooting started as an argument, possibly about a theft, police said.

A memorial service for Weatherspoon also was Friday afternoon, one hour before his alleged killer was arraigned in municipal court.

Drake’s house was significantly damaged by arson about 11 p.m. a day after Weatherspoon was killed. Fire Capt. Alvin Ware, chief fire investigator said the fire is believed to somehow be related to the shooting, but no arrest has been made in the deliberately set fire.

An empty 1-gallon can of gasoline was found at the scene, and there was a strong odor of gasoline in the house, Ware said.

Damage to the house was estimated at $16,000.

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