Amid tears, frustration, clues sought in slayings at nightclub Police, mourners plead for Volcano's case help

December 18, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

More than 200 witnesses and no leads.

That's what frustrated homicide detectives face every time they pick up the file on an October shooting spree at Volcano's nightclub that left two college students dead, five people injured and plenty of political fallout.

Police said yesterday that they were no closer to finding a killer than they were on the deadly morning outside the popular club on Greenmount Avenue after an evening of music, dance and male strippers.

"We are trying to find some additional witnesses," said Detective Robert L. Patton, one of the homicide investigators struggling to close the case. "Two hundred people witnessed this shooting and no one has come forward."

The investigators and relatives of those killed returned to the now-closed nightclub yesterday, hoping that drawing more attention to the case might help solve it. There detectives pleaded for help and mourners released weeks of pent-up anger.

"I'm not doing too good," said Bonita Johnson, the mother of Donte Young, a 22-year-old student at Coppin State College who was killed. "I just hope the police are able to find the guy who did this. This shouldn't have happened. It was uncalled for."

Terri McDaniel, the sister of the other person killed, Lori McDaniel, 19, could barely muster enough strength to talk. Her words turned to tears, and tears turned to screams that echoed along Greenmount Avenue. She broke down in uncontrollable sobs as soon as she arrived at the news conference.

The shooting occurred about 1: 45 a.m. Oct. 24 as hundreds of patrons were leaving the club through a side door in an alley off the 1000 block of Greenmount Ave. A gunman fired into the crowd, hitting McDaniel in the back of the head and Young in the right temple.

Patton and Detective Paul Mitzel said they don't think any of the dead or injured were targets. They have put in countless hours trying to solve the slayings, which prompted the mayor to crack down on illegal clubs across the city. That effort included padlocking some clubs and unannounced inspections by police and liquor board members.

City officials closed Volcano's shortly after the shootings, citing the owners for various infractions such as operating a dance hall without a permit.

Johnson said she is grateful for all the police have done. "Nobody is coming forward, and I don't understand why," she said. "What are they scared of? Donte went to school and went to work. This is going to be a very sad Christmas."

Ali Ellis, a friend who was standing beside Young when he was shot, pleaded with witnesses to step forward. He noted that police think none of the injured or dead were targets of the shooter. "The witnesses should be more afraid that the shooter is still out there," Ellis said.

Young's girlfriend, Katrina Plummer, said Young wasn't a regular at Volcano's. "He just wanted to celebrate his birthday the whole weekend," Plummer said. "He wanted to go from club to club to celebrate."

For police, the case has been frustrating. Patton said officers have received many calls offering help, but he called most of the tips "fragmented" and said they don't point to a particular suspect.

Watching the family members bring out photographs of their lost loved ones and collapse in anguish on a public street made the detectives more determined to find the killer.

"Donte and Lori are victims, and nobody is doing anything to help them," Patton said. "These people are hurt by all this. And we care. All this death -- you never get used to it."

Pub Date: 12/18/96

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