Mahoning Valley records first homicide of 2013 at troubled Warren nightclub

By danny restivo


Hours after a local bar celebrated the new year, a city man was fatally shot at the establishment.

Cory D. Blackwell, 25, of Warren died Tuesday morning after suffering a gunshot wound at the Sunset Lounge in the 400 block of East Market Street.

According to a press release from the Warren City Police Department, officers responded to a shooting at 2:11 a.m., where they discovered Blackwell outside the bar with a gunshot wound. Police said he was transported to Trumbull Memorial Hospital where he later was pronounced dead.

The Vindicator broadcast partner, 21 WFMJ TV, said witnesses told officers that shots were fired inside the bar near the dance floor. Officers also reported a large crowd of people fleeing the bar when police arrived, they said.

Tuesday’s crime scene was a half-block north of a fatal shooting Nov. 11.

That shooting resulted in the death of Marco Dukes, 32, of Warren, and the wounding of his cousin.

Dale A. Hatch, 25, and Derrick D. Pete, 22, both of Detroit, were charged with aggravated murder in that shooting.

Police did not draw any links from the Sunset Lounge to the November shooting, but the bar has had a problematic history.

In August, Warren city council objected to the renewal of the Sunset Lounge’s liquor license by a 9-0 vote. The council said the objection came after police received 22 calls for service since the bar opened in March.

Calls were for fights, vehicle theft, a traffic accident, suspicious vehicles and people, disturbances and alarms.

Council also cited an Aug. 2 inspection by the Ohio Department of Public Safety. The agency reported that LaShawn Ziegler, 40, of Warren, had been participating in the operation of the tavern.

Ziegler was sentenced to five years’ probation in April 2010 after pleading guilty to receiving stolen property, tampering with records, falsification, marijuana possession and marijuana trafficking.

Among the terms of his probation were that he not enter any bars, taverns or liquor establishments, according to court documents.

Ziegler ran two previous taverns, both of which were shut down by the city.

Ziegler owned the nightclub 77 Soul on Youngstown Road, which the city closed for building violations. Later, Ziegler ran Benji Brown’s Bar and Grill on North Park Avenue, which was raided in April 2008 and found to be operating with no liquor permit.

Atty. Dennis DiMartino, who represents Ziegler, told council members at a committee meeting before the vote that Ziegler “did have an interest at one time” in the Sunset Lounge but has no ownership in it.

He added that the need for police assistance at the tavern would have been reduced if the city would have agreed to allow off- duty Warren police officers to work at the tavern.

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