January 5, 2012

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Once again, our fair city has proven itself “cool enough” to make national headlines for something crazy. All the news websites our home and work computers come pre-packaged with ran a blurb the morning of Dec. 25 referencing “9 People Shot at Late Night Christmas Party in Chattanooga, TN.”  How cool are we, right?

Consider the progress we’ve made: The renaissance of the downtown waterfront, the rehabbing and revitalization of our burned-out downtown into a thriving city, the half-billion dollars in incentives that landed Volkswagen in the midst of The Great Recession, the environmental revolution transforming one of the dirtiest cities in America to what is now one of the greenest, the fastest Internet speeds on the planet … the list goes on. But sweet mother of crap, what a huge turd landed in the punch bowl on Christmas Eve, right?

By now, most everyone has heard or read about the Club Fathom incident, the Wild West-style shootout that happened at the downtown club operated by the Mosaic Church.  

By “church,” the mean “organized for exclusively religious, charitable, scientific, literary and educational purposes,” to meet to their tax-exempt 501(c)3 status. (They were a purely religious institution from 2003 until 2010 when the principal, Tim Reid, converted the charter to a “no value” private nonprofit corporation.)

As an example of their religious outreach, the club advertised a Christmas Eve event described as the “Smash or Pass Christmas Bash,” with door charges beginning at $5 and escalating to $15 as the night progressed, much like other clubs that call themselves churches do at midnight on Saturdays.  Enthusiasts said the “Swag Team” would be shutting the city down and, to their credit, they were right.

Reid told reporters later that he was aware of this advertising. But much like a political candidate, he said he had no control as to how events at his church/club were advertised, as evidenced by photos of a hot, busty chick in lingerie and a Santa hat advertising his “at-risk youth outreach services” on a social media sites. In other words, it wasn’t his fault.

Club Fathom, housed along with The Warehouse in the  Mosaic Church, has its main entrance on Market Street another behind it on Cherry Street. It was outside this Cherry Street entrance shortly after midnight on Christmas morning that people on the scene described two rival gangs firing shots in response to an altercation that occurred inside earlier. (That’s based on statements taken from the scene by reporters and police, which will become important in a moment.) A single off-duty cop working that lot for the church had one of the guns pointed at him and he traded shots with the bad guy, but in the estimated crowd of 400 the other shooters were able to escape in the chaos.

In all, nine people were struck, seven with minor wounds, two requiring admission to a hospital, and none, miraculously, fatal. The city was “shut down” as advertised because every cop working wound up down there in the aftermath, and an Internet sensation (for about seven minutes) was born. Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd gave an interview at the freezing crime scene in which he stated, “Seriously?  I mean, seriously?” over and over in disbelief and frustration. (Note:  I made that last bit completely up, but it’s what I would have said.)

The mayor? Furious, and rightfully so. The chief?  Neighbors?  Everyone in general?  Furious, too. But just days later, the loonies are emerging from under their rocks and giving their “expert” opinions.

Despite being described by police from sources on the scene as a “shootout between rival gangs,” some people are insisting the police are “denying gangs exist in Chattanooga.” By calling them “gangs” I guess. (I have only a blank-look in response; what else could be said?)



January 5, 2012

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