Judge requires Odell's owners to hire security guards after nearby shooting

July 15, 1992|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

Expressing concern about the Monday morning shooting of five people near Odell's, a Baltimore judge agreed yesterday to tighten restrictions on the nightspot by requiring the owners to hire private security guards and schedule a zoning hearing by the end of the week.

Circuit Judge Ellen L. Hollander amended her June 29 order at the request of lawyers for both the city and the North Avenue club who asked to confer with her after the shootings.

Judge Hollander told the lawyers she did not believe the club at 21 E. North Ave. could open this weekend without the security guards.

"Public safety is, of course, everyone's concern, and I hope this will be accommodated by these amendments," she said.

Elijah E. Cummings, Odell's attorney, assured her the guards would be hired by Friday night, when the club is again scheduled to open.

Baltimore City Solicitor Neal M. Janey said his office was still reviewing reports on the shooting and would later reach a decision on whether to ask the judge to revise her order further. Judge Hollander gave the city until July 22 to request such a change and gave the club until July 31 to reply to such a request.

The judge also is requiring the owners to join with other area merchants in applying to the Baltimore Police Department for permission to hire off-duty officers to "keep order and peace in the neighborhood" by Friday.

Judge Hollander agreed to allow the use of private security guards temporarily in lieu of off-duty officers because getting the Police Department to agree to such an arrangement could take weeks, she said.

But several city officials expressed doubts privately that the city would approve such an agreement, given the history of problems around the club. In fact, Mr. Cummings told the judge, "We don't believe the Police Department will cooperate with us."

If that is the case, Judge Hollander said, the two sides will have to appear in court to propose changes to her June 29 order requiring the club owners to enter into a contract with city police.

Milton Tillman, president of 1921 Inc., the owner of Odell's, declined comment yesterday.

The shootings near the nightspot -- which the city and neighborhood leaders have sought to close because of its troubled past -- brought the zoning problem back before the judge yesterday.

Four of the five shooting victims -- who were shot either in the legs or foot -- have been treated and released from area hospitals. The fifth victim, Anthony Long, 16, remained in good condition last night at Johns Hopkins Hospital with a gunshot wound to the left arm, though a hos pital spokeswoman said he was expected to be released soon.

Police said a young man pulled a handgun and started shooting into a crowd after someone bumped him. The assailant has not been identified and is still being sought.

Judge Hollander's amended order allows the club to remain open temporarily, pending a hearing before the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals to change its use to a "dance hall" instead of a "private club."

After a drive-by shooting outside the club that left six people wounded last July, the permit to operate as a private club was revoked by the city because zoning officials found the nightspot open to the public.

That decision was appealed and taken in October before Baltimore Circuit Judge David Ross, who issued an order similar to Judge Hollander's order two weeks ago.

At yesterday's hearing, Mr. Cummings, who is a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly, complained to the judge about the "gross inaccuracies" in the police account of the location of the shooting, as reported by The Sun.

In an effort to distance the club from the incident, he said that the shooting did not take place "outside" Odell's, as reported, but rather farther east on North Avenue -- possibly as far as a block away.

A review of police records showed that the shooting took place in front of 31 E. North Ave., about 100 feet east of Odell's.

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