published Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

Club Fathom shooting victims file $3 million suit

Five people shot outside Club Fathom on Christmas Eve 2011 are suing the club operator, building trust manager and security company at the site and are seeking $3 million in damages.

Jeterrius Marshawn Akridge, Thomas Lamar Armstrong, Demonya Marquel Battle, Raheem Blunt and Juane Lontate Joseph filed the lawsuit in Circuit Court on Wednesday.

Blunt is asking for $1 million; the other plaintiffs are asking for $500,000 each.

A fight that began with gang signs thrown on the dance floor inside the 412 Market St. club on Christmas Eve flowed outside where, police say, a 15-year-old boy and two other teens fired into the crowd. Nine people were injured.

The five shooting victims claim that Timothy Reid, Club Fathom's operator, and the other defendants were negligent in "planning, operation, organization and management" of the event.

"It hurts my heart. I wish I could have gone out there in the street and done something to help those kids," Reid said. "I do appreciate the police who tried to assist."

Reid declined further comment.

The five victims allege that the following actions taken by Reid and others contributed to the shooting: Organizers failed to hire sufficient or adequately trained security, failed to patrol regularly outside the building and ended the event in such a way that "forced attendees into under-guarded and under-patrolled" areas.

The club operated as an event location for Christian outreach to teens through Reid's Mosaic Church.

The shooting pushed Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield and police Chief Bobby Dodd, who had complained publicly about Club Fathom gatherings, to have the location listed as a public nuisance and shut down.

The church later partnered with Northside Community Church on Mississippi Avenue in North Chattanooga to hold services.

Reid said Thursday the church has about 200 participants. Services are at 5 p.m. each Sunday and monthly youth concerts of religious and secular music are held at rented downtown locations.

The 15-year-old accused of being the shooter and another suspect were arrested shortly after the incident. The teen was charged with nine counts of attempted first-degree murder, nine counts of aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy and reckless endangerment.

Juvenile records, including defendants' names, are sealed unless charges are transferred to Criminal Court. It was unclear if the charges remained in Juvenile Court or had been transferred as of Thursday.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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