BALTIMORE — Patrons at the Hustler Club still had almost half an hour before closing when shots rang out and a man suffered multiple gunshot wounds near the back of the club early Sunday.
“He was a friend of one of my employees or two of my employees. Nice guy. It was just an isolated incident,” said Bill Wantland, the co-owner of the nearby Club Pussycat, who is balancing his concern over the victim with concern that the shooting comes after weeks battling a proposed 10 o’clock curfew to enhance safety on the block, which many felt may shut them down. “I heard there was a shooting at the Hustler Club and it kind of broke my heart knowing we worked so hard on a compromise with Bill Ferguson, and it’s just heartbreaking. I’m hoping it’s just an isolated incident, because that’s what it is. It’s just isolated.”
Advocates of beefing up security on the block disagree and say the crime stats last year for the area back that up.
“This is not anecdotal. This is not an anomaly,” said Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello. “This is a continuation of a pattern from last year and from previous years. Again, last year, we averaged almost a non-fatal shooting victim per month.”
As part of the brokered compromise, clubs along The Block would have to install more security cameras, improve their ability to share images with police and train their security personnel to keep patrons in check, while providing more money for officers devoted to policing outside the establishments, but some say there’s no guarantee any of that would have prevented Sunday’s shooting.
“There’s about a 99-percent chance you can stop it. There’s always that one chance. Let’s be realistic about it. There’s always that one chance,” said Wantland. “You can’t always stop 100 percent of crime or anything anywhere in Baltimore City.”
The senate president’s communication director, David Schuhlein, says the shooting reinforces the need for the heightened security.