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City police: Shooter targeted victim at Utopia club

YOUNGSTOWN — Sometime after a 27-year-old Youngstown rapper performed on stage and left the stage, someone “walked up and shot him” multiple times inside Utopia Video Nightclub on East Midlothian Boulevard early Saturday, killing him.

The deliberate way he was shot indicates the man, whose name is not yet being released, was the intended victim of the shooting, police Chief Carl Davis told the news media Monday.

“There is no evidence suggesting this was a hate crime,” Davis said of the shootings at the LGBTQ+ club. Those initials stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning). The “plus” is for all other gender identities.

A Youngstown police report has identified the homicide victim as Charles E. Allen Jr., 27, of Youngstown.

A statement from the club posted on its Facebook page late Monday stated the club was “privately retained for a live concert event.”

The statement from the club’s owner, Earl Winner, and staff states that Utopia has been open since 2005 but will remain closed until after police conclude their investigation.

There was a gap in time between the 1:30 a.m. shooting of the rapper and when two other people — a man, 21, and a female, 20 — also were shot, police said. Both are in critical but stable condition at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital. All three have Youngstown addresses, according to a police report.

Police said they believe the victims who survived were “just bystanders,” said Lt. Ramon Cox with the detective bureau of the Youngstown Police Department. When police officers who were nearby entered the club, they heard the second set of shots and looked for the shooter or shooters but did not find any.

A police report lists five officers who were were on a “Hot Spot Investigation” directly across the street from the nightclub when the first gunshots were heard. A Hot Spot investigation is when officers check out a possible problem area referred to the department through a number of different sources — citizens, council members, and the police chief’s office.

“A second later, officers observed a very large crowd run from inside of the bar,” the report states. “Officers drove to the parking lot of Utopia, where we heard more shots being fired. All officers entered the building and observed a (man) deceased in the entryway. While in the bar, multiple shots were fired by an unknown suspect from the rear of the building,” the report continues.

“Officers pushed forward and cleared the bar to locate the active shooter. Officers were able to clear the hectic scene with no further casualties. During this time, it was discovered there was another (male) victim and a (female) victim that were shot also.”

The 46,000-square foot facility is several blocks east of South Avenue. A “few hundred” people were in the club, Cox said.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown suggested that the shootings could be the result of a feud.

“Unfortunately we have individuals who are out there, they have individual relationships with each other, and they are feuding with one another,” he said. “Innocent people oftentimes are hurt, as was the young lady that officer (Joe Wess Jr.) helped.”

Wess, a Youngstown Police Department officer and member of the K-9 unit, performed first aid on the female victim, who had been shot in the leg, Davis said. Wess applied a tourniquet to her leg, Davis said, adding, “Officer Wess’s lifesaving efforts should be recognized and lauded.”

When asked whether the number of people inside the facility might have exceeded the number allowed to be inside, Cox said: “We don’t know the building codes, the capacity.”

Brown said it appears the venue was rented out for a concert, and “a rapper out of Detroit was coming here. Unfortunately the local rapper was the one who was the victim here in this case.”

Cox said detectives were still “beating the pavement” trying to determine what the relationship is between the many shots fired at the local rapper and the multiple shots fired at the two other victims. “We’re still trying to work it out,” Cox said.

According to online information, rapper Ghetto Boy was the headliner for the show hosted by Gatti The Party Starter.

Cox said apparently two guns were fired because two types of bullet shell casings were found, but no gun was recovered.

Cox said police do not know what the feud might have been over.

“Somebody just walked up and shot him,” Cox said of the homicide victim. He said the victim had “a lot of gunshot wounds.” He added, “And then bullets just flew and witnesses standing by got hit.”

Davis said surveillance video cameras were operating at the time of the gunfire.

“They are culling through a lot of video. It’s a process. It’s going to take some time. We have hours and hours and hours of video to go through.”

The police department asks that anyone with information about what happened should call 330-746-CLUE.

erunyan@tribtoday.com

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