The city took steps Wednesday to shut down a downtown church and its youth events after at least nine people were wounded in a Christmas Eve shooting.
Chattanooga attorneys filed paperwork in Hamilton County Circuit Court seeking an injunction to padlock the Mosaic Arts Venue at 412 Market St. The building is home to the Mosaic church and Club Fathom, an urban youth outreach program. The filing states that the establishment is a public nuisance and lists a series of shootings and assaults at the location since 2006.
The complaint says the venue has a history of "quarreling, drunkenness, fighting and other breaches of peace." The city is trying to stop a New Year's Eve party set for Saturday.
'"The deadline is we're trying to avoid problems this weekend," said Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd. "We would hope they would comply just with the order from the judge, but if not and if need be, if we have to go padlock it, we will."
Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth has set a hearing at 9 a.m. Friday. The order states that the Rev. Tim Reid, pastor of Mosaic church and head of Fathom Inc., and property owner Beverly B. Henry should appear in court and show why the establishment should remain open.
Neither Reid nor Henry could be reached for comment Friday.
Assistant City Attorney Phil Noblett said the injunction would be only temporary and that the city will ask later for a permanent injunction.
"As long we get it done before the weekend, when the trouble is expected, that's fine with us," Dodd said. "This gives everyone on both sides a fair opportunity."
Since 2006, police have responded to more than 20 assault calls at Club Fathom's address.
On Christmas Eve, more than 400 people streamed out of Club Fathom just before the city's midnight curfew when gang members fired bullets into the crowd, police said. At least nine people were wounded.
A Facebook listing for the New Year's party at the Mosaic Arts Venue labels it as a "New Year's Eve Party/Art Showcase" and features deejays Synaptic Flow and Tryezz. The listing also says "BYOB: Other refreshments available."
Reid said Tuesday in a press conference that "BYOB" stands for "Bring Your Own Bible."
Mayor Ron Littlefield scoffed at that idea Tuesday.
"There's going to be a lot of disappointed people down there gripping their liquid Bibles," he said.
'THE OZZY OSBOURNE OF THE BLUES'
One performer who is scheduled to play Friday night at the venue said he still plans to rock the night away, even if the door is padlocked.
On Wednesday, a flier appeared on Facebook promoting an event by local blues musician Bob Carty. The flier said, "Not even the Mayor can stop The Real Bob Carty."
Carty said his event has been planned for two months, but he produced the flier after hearing about the city's actions to stop his "friends" from playing Saturday night.
"If they padlock the place, I'm taking it to the street," he said. "I have generators."
He said he is a member of the Mosaic church and does not understand animosity towards it. The church reaches out to people that others "won't even meet halfway," he said.
He said he also wonders why the city did not go after his event on Friday night and is instead focusing only on the New Year's Eve event.
"If they're not going to let my friends play, why would they not let me?" he asked. "I'm the freaking Ozzy Osbourne of the blues."
Richard Beeland, spokesman for Littlefield, said he thought Carty's move showed exactly why the city should shut down the venue.
"I think it's pathetic that someone would capitalize on a tragic event where nine people were shot," he said.
Dodd said the injunction would also shut down the Friday night event because the judge's order would be effective immediately.
"If [Carty] he goes into the venue with the padlock, he could be playing in jail," Dodd said.
If Carty takes the show to the street, he would have to get a permit as a "street performer," Dodd said.
NEW YEAR'S BASH
Saturday night's deejays -- Synaptic Flow and Tryezz -- are Chattanooga residents Brian Foster and Jonathon Fowlkes. Synaptic Flow is techno-based music, Foster said, while Tryezz is electronic dance music with an influence of jazz and funk, according to Fowlkes.
Fowlkes said he is a regular member of the Mosaic church, while Foster said he attends once in awhile.
CHRISTMAS EVE SHOOTING VICTIMS
The Chattanooga Police Department released the names of four adult victims from the shooting at Mosaic on Christmas Eve:
- Thomas Armstrong, 18, shot in the left knee
- Juane Joseph, 18, shot in the upper left leg
- Keontae Howard, 29, shot in the left shoulder
- Charquell Appling, 19, shot in the right thigh
Five juveniles were shot but police did not release their names. None of the injuries was life-threatening.
Source: Chattanooga Police Department
Saturday's event is supposed to be an outreach program for the church, Fowlkes said. Secular music will be played, he said, but it's a way for those within the church community to introduce outsiders to Mosaic.
"It's not really supposed to be a religious event but, at the same time, it's a way to open up to the community and the church," he said.
Some portrayals of past incidents at the church have been blown out of proportion, he said.
Foster said he got a last-minute call from a church member to fill in as a deejay. The New Year's event would host a different type of crowd than last weekend, he said.
But there still seems to be some confusion about whether it is a Christian event. Foster said he has heard some people saying that "BYOB" meant "Bring Your Own Bible," but "that's not what I was led to believe."
"I heard no one suggest it was a Christian event," he said.
Staff writer Beth Burger contributed to this story.
Cliff has worked for the Times Free Press for five years and covers Chattanooga city government. He previously covered Rhea County, as well as transportation and growth and development in Southeast Tennessee. A native of Maryville, Tenn., Cliff graduated in 2003 from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis on journalism. Before coming to Chattanooga, he was a crime reporter with Hernando Today, a supplement of The Tampa (Fla.) ...