Sunday, June 26, 2022

Shooting in Jacksonville nightclub results in two hospitalized, a suspended permit, and a missing gun

Police say Champs Lounge in Jacksonville has long been the site of various criminal incidents. A November shooting was the last straw, and in the following weeks police provided information to the ABC commission that led to a suspension of the lounge’s permits. (Jacksonville Daily News/Courtesy Trevor Dunnell)

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — A club in Jacksonville had its ABC license suspended after police responded to a November shooting. Reportedly, a single gun shot wound hospitalized two people: a woman with the bullet lodged in her leg, and a man who was treated as a suspect after officers initially located him by following a blood trail from the club. 

The ABC commission relied on a series of affidavits from more than a dozen members of the Jacksonville Police Department in its decision to shutter the club’s liquor sales. According to the documents, police previously urged the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to step in. Police claimed that, when they receive calls about the club, Champs Lounge, the majority of the department’s resources are consumed and the remainder of the city is temporarily left largely unattended.

The affidavits show how officers in Jacksonville proceeded after learning that a shot was fired at the club at around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22. The documents detail the process of interviewing the female gunshot victim, and locating the other injured man via the blood trail he left behind. Further, they offer a glimpse into how officers attempted to investigate the shooting. It appears that the gun in question is still undiscovered. 

A Birthday Party

After being shot, Destini Johnson wrote in a witness statement that nobody was fighting or arguing in Champ’s Lounge. Later in the hospital, she told a detective she had no enemies and did not think anyone had reason to shoot her. Johnson told the detective she arrived at the club around 12:30 a.m. and was near the dance floor surrounded by friends when she heard a “pop.” 

Meanwhile, the club’s manager was in the back of the building cooking chicken and having a few drinks, according to the affidavits. The manager told police the building opened at 11:30 p.m., to host an afterparty for a woman who was turning 21. There were around 75 people in the crowd, he estimated. The affidavit from the public safety director states that little activity had been seen at Champs Lounge in recent months. 

The crowd was “chill,” the club manager told police. He also said the club was not serving alcohol, only chicken, which contradicted Johnson’s statement, in which she mentions being served drinks. 

After he heard the pop, which he initially thought was an issue with the speaker system, the manager entered the dance floor to see Johnson covered in blood. He then drove her to Onslow Memorial Hospital.

The investigation 

While the manager talked with officers outside the crime scene, other police were in the club, searching around. They observed a pool of blood and a white shoe within it. Officers also found a single brass bullet casing. The blood trickled out of the club, around a nearby Red Roof Inn and toward a Burger King further down Western Boulevard. 

A sergeant found a man with a gunshot wound on the street. He was bleeding and unconscious. The man was transported to the Naval Medical Hospital. 

While in the hospital, the second gunshot victim was approached by police who asked his name. Though he gave a fake name, according to the affidavits, the man did provide his birthday. A detective ran the birthday through a police database, and found a photo that matched the victim in the hospital. The detective confronted him about using a fake name and asked if he knew where the firearm was. 

The analysis of the gunshot led officers to believe a shot initially went through the backside, then the thigh of the man in the Naval hospital, before entering Johnson’s leg, where it remained lodged. 

The affidavits suggest that the detective suspected the male with the gunshot wounds of being the shooter. Other officers had been searching for the gun to no avail; the only possible place left to search nearby was the retention pond in the lot of the Red Roof Inn. 

The detective who interviewed the male victim obtained search warrants for the man’s cell phone — all of his texts, call logs, app data and social media information — as well as a warrant for the security camera footage held by the club. 

The Champs Lounge security cameras hadn’t recorded footage since 2017, the officer found. Also, a forensic evidence analyst was unable to unlock the cellphone. 

The day following the shooting, the detective oversaw a search of the retention pond, but the gun was not found. Two days following the shooting, local media in Jacksonville reported that a shooting had occurred at Champs Lounge over the weekend. 

In the affidavits, members of the Jacksonville Police Department said that assaults, drug offenses, sexual assaults and robberies have been reported at Champs Lounge over the past three years, as well as two shootings this calendar year.

“These responses cause a drain on police resources, by depleting entire shifts of personnel that have to respond to this location,” Captain Mike Capps wrote. “This results in the remainder of the City of Jacksonville’s citizens being left with no police services while these issues are being dealt with for extensive periods of time.”

On Dec. 1, the ABC commission suspended the permits for Champs Lounge, making use of a provision that allows the commission to step in “[i]f the agency finds that the public health, safety, or welfare requires emergency action …” 

A spokesperson for the ABC commission said the organization “relies on law enforcement to present sworn statements, affidavits, and violation reports before considering any administrative action against an ABC permit.” 

“The summary suspension was based on a finding that the public health, safety, or welfare required emergency action for the reasons detailed in the order for summary suspension,” he said. 

The club owner and manager did not respond to requests to be interviewed by Port City Daily for this story. A spokesperson for the Jacksonville Police Department did not respond to an email asking if the gun involved in the shooting had been recovered. 

READ MORE: Champs Lounge takes loss with ABC suspension after recent shooting (Jacksonville Daily News)

Send tips and comments to Preston Lennon at or (910) 478-6511

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