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Lavish Lounge criminal investigation continues as multiple lawsuits scatter blame

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CORRECTION Nightclub Shooting South Carolina

Yellow police tape is seen outside the Lavish Lounge in Greenville on July 5, 2020, following a deadly shooting. File/Ken Ruinard/The Greenville News via AP

GREENVILLE — It’s been seven months since a concert at Lavish Lounge club turned into a burst of gunfire that killed a young mother and a security guard, and wounded eight others.

The events surrounding the Independence Day shooting are still being reviewed in various levels of the legal system, both civil and criminal.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is handling the ongoing criminal investigation, has to date arrested one person, ATF spokesman Corey Ray said.

Meanwhile, four lawsuits have been filed on behalf of victims of the violence, including one in representation of 23-year-old Mykala Bell, who died in the shooting and left behind two young children.

Bell wasn’t a part of what authorities say was a gang-related beef that prompted a member of Atlanta trap rapper Foogiano’s entourage to open fire in the club. Neither was 51-year-old security guard Clarence Sterling.

The Post and Courier reviewed the lawsuit filed in Greenville County and found those being sued range from major corporations to local contractors.

Both Foogiano and well-known rapper and promoter Gucci Mane are named. One suit, filed in full this month, extends the grievance to the record label both are signed to — music titan Atlantic Records. Locally, the owner of the Lavish Lounge building, the man and associated companies who ran the club, a security contractor hired for that night and the Georgia man arrested and charged in the shooting are all named in suits that allege wrongful death, assault and battery, and premise liability.

In three of the suits, Sterling and his estate are listed as defendants.

On Feb. 17, Circuit Judge Perry Gravely delayed a request by the owner of the building, Rommie Khalil, to be removed from two of the suits. Khalil’s attorney argued in a motion to dismiss hearing that Khalil simply owned the building and had no other interest in the club.

It all dates back to 1:45 a.m. July 5, when a concert carried on into the night with a crowd packed into a nightclub that has since been forced to close. The rapper Foogiano, whose given name is Kwame Brown, was the headliner.

Two days after the shooting, Greenville County Sheriff Hobart Lewis laid out the series of events told through witnesses and video at the club at 1701 White Horse Road near Interstate 85.

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Just before shots were fired, several men, all identified as being part of the rapper’s entourage, presented guns, Lewis said. In all, 12 rounds were fired inside the club in what Lewis said was gang-related violence.

Bell and Sterling were innocent bystanders. Eight others were injured.

Everyone involved with the shootings left immediately. Sheriff’s Lt. Jimmy Bolt at the time said that there were two shooters and that authorities were looking for three men.

To date, only Jarquez Kezavion Cooper of Athens, Ga., has been arrested. Cooper faces two murder charges and eight counts of attempted murder.

As the sun rose, authorities were sorting through evidence and public leaders decried the violence.

The ATF later took over the investigation. Ray said he wasn't able to provide more information about how many other potential suspects the agency might be looking at.

The civil claims in motion now paint a picture of negligence, though the parties involved have denied wrongdoing across the spectrum of lawsuits.

The suits allege that the nightclub — run by Antonio Quiroga — was operating illegally without a license to conduct business and serve alcohol and failed to check IDs. The club also violated "crowd restrictions." Under Gov. Henry McMaster's executive order limiting large gatherings during the pandemic, the club should not have been open.

The suits allege that the club failed to check for guns, whether at the door or through other entrances, and when the shooting happened, there was inadequate means for the crowd to exit.

In one particular suit alleging assault and battery, a main target is the performers, promoters and record company being held responsible for the actions of someone acting as an employee or agent — the entourage member charged with being the gunman, Cooper.

Both Foogiano and Gucci Mane, the Georgia-based rapper and promoter whose given name is Radric Delantic Davis, are signed with Atlantic Records, which operates under the umbrella of one of the three-largest record companies in the world, Warner Music Group. Also listed are Charleston-based A-List Booking LLC, and Midlands-based Sierra Six Safety & Security Consulting LLC, which was hired to provide security services.

In a response to the actions against his company, Sierra Six owner Alan Geathers, in representation of himself, asked to be dismissed from action because the company was only responsible for securing the Lavish Lounge parking lot and not anything at the door or within.

Follow Eric on Twitter at @cericconnor.

Reporter/Local Editor

Eric is a reporter and local editor for The Post and Courier in Greenville. Previously with The Greenville News, he's covered the Upstate for two decades and served as a USA TODAY correspondent. He studied journalism at the University of South Carolina.

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