Chattanooga city officials call club where nine people shot on Christmas morning a nuisance

Chattanooga city officials call club where nine people shot on Christmas morning a nuisance

December 27th, 2011 by Kevin Hardy and Mariann Martin in News

The inside of Mosaic where Club Fathom is located remains empty after the shooting Christmas morning where nine people were injured. Local government is considering shutting down the venue.

Photo by Jenna Walker/Times Free Press.

LIVE COVERAGE AT 2 P.M.

Follow live coverage of a news conference at Mosaic Church on 412 Market St. pertaining to Christmas weekend's shootings today at 2 p.m. here.

Pastor Tim Reid will read Mosaic's official statement and then will follow-up with questions from the media.

Pastor Reid and Mayor Ron Littlefield also had earlier online chats on August 5, 2009. Transcripts can be read here.

POLL: Should Club Fathom be shut down?

Prior incidents at Club Fathom:

  • On July 30, 2006, about 500 teenagers were thrown out of the club about 12:30 a.m. They loitered in a nearby parking lot for hours before fights broke out and three people were stabbed.
  • In the summer of 2009, three juveniles were shot in separate incidents in areas near Club Fathom, though police were not sure whether all the shootings were related to the club.
  • In September 2009, Reid removed the "Fathom" marquee from the building. At the time, Reid said the name change didn't mean the youth outreach programs and concerts at Mosaic Church would end.
  • After police responded to 344 service calls between 2006 and 2009 at or near the club, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield got involved and club operator Reid stopped youth events at the site in the summer of 2009. The events resumed with the start of the school year.
  • In August 2009, Reid said he would file for a business license for his personal landscaping businesses after the Mayor's Office raised questions over his personal finances and those of Mosaic.

Source: Times Free Press archives

A Christmas morning shooting that injured nine people is further evidence that the downtown club where the brawl began is a public nuisance that should be dealt with quickly, city officials said Monday.

Club Fathom has a long history of teen violence dating back to at least 2006 and has faced city ire in the past.

"This place has consistently been a problem and the owners are not addressing the problem," city spokesman Richard Beeland said. "We are talking to the city attorney to see what our options are."

Chattanooga police said nine people -- five juveniles and four adults -- were shot when rival gang members began firing at each other in a crowd of about 400 teens leaving a Christmas Eve party at Club Fathom located in a building run by Mosaic Church on Market Street.

Police believe the Club Fathom brawl, which happened shortly after midnight, led to at least two other incidents, including another shooting near College Hill Courts. Police Spokeswoman Sgt. Jerri Weary said police would not release any additional information about the incident until today.

Police have not released the names of those injured near Club Fathom, but said no injuries appeared to be life-threatening. Police released Sunday the name of 18-year-old Thomas Heffner, who was shot in the hand near College Hill Courts sometime after leaving the downtown melee.

Fliers outside the building advertised a candlelight Christmas Eve service from midnight to 1 a.m., while an online ad billed a "Smash or Pass Christmas Bash," where no ID was required. That advertisement featured a woman in red lingerie and a Santa hat.

On a Facebook posting advertising the candlelight service, Mosaic Church pastor Tim Reid noted the candlelight service ended at 1 a.m., but everyone was welcome to hang out until 2:30 a.m.

It was not clear Monday whether one event or two were held in the building on Christmas Eve. Club Fathom is listed on Mosaic's website as a teen-centered outreach ministry of the church and arts venue. The building has two entrances, one near Cherry Street, and another at 412 Market St. The shooting happened in the parking lot behind the Cherry Street entrance.

Reid could not be reached on Monday and did not appear at home Monday afternoon at an address listed in his name.

A post on Mosiac's Facebook page said, "Our hearts go out to those hurt downtown this weekend! We are still having events as planned, this Friday Concert in the Gallery with Bluesmaster Bob Carty!"

Chattanooga City Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said the club is a nuisance and public safety concern.

"I'm extremely concerned to hear that yet again we have had a disturbance at that establishment," she said. "Just what I'm seeing in results and outcomes from that establishment, I'm very concerned with the operations there."

Ladd said city officials will study what action they can take against the club. She said such incidents put members of the public in harm's way.

"This shouldn't be happening within their walls. But it certainly shouldn't spill out onto the street and open us all up to danger," she said. "We just cannot continue to have that happen in our downtown -- anywhere in our city."

The establishment's history includes fights, shootings and stabbings following late-night events.

"Certainly what happened the other evening was a nuisance," Ladd said. "And it doesn't appear that this was an isolated incident."

Steve Root, a manager at Panera Bread, speaks to the Chattanooga Times Free Press on Monday about the shooting Christmas morning at Club Fathom. Root said that since the change in ownership a year or so ago, he felt that there was an improvement with the club. He was disappointed to hear about the incident Christmas morning.

Photo by Jenna Walker/Times Free Press.

In August 2009, Littlefield told Reid to stop his Saturday night activities or the city would close down the establishment. That order followed a series of late-night fights, shootings and stabbings near the club.

"I told him frankly that I felt like he was running a business masquerading as a church," Littlefield told a Times Free Press reporter at the time.

Several people who work at businesses near Mosiac expressed concern about the shootings, but said the venue provided a needed place for teenagers to hang out.

Steve Root, a manager at Panera Bread, said his two sons used to go to events at the club. The club has had problems in the past, but has seemed quieter in the last year or so, he said.

"I'm really sorry that it happened," Root said. "There are kids from all over -- Signal Mountain, outside the city and urban kids -- that come there. It seems kids just don't behave; their mom and dad don't care like they should."

Root said he moved to Chattanooga in 1979, when downtown was a place you wouldn't venture at night. Now he hopes the latest events won't spread that same message.

"I think the police did a great job in addressing the problem," he said.

Mosaic's website says the organization aims to draw in 50 percent of its funding from hosting in-house events. The venue rents out its space for concerts, parties and the unaffiliated River City Church.

Reid's latest IRS form 990 tax filing from 2009 classifies the operation, called "Fathom, Inc.," as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It's not classified as a church or religious institution, but rather falls under the category of family counseling and marriage counseling.

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at khardy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Contact staff writer Mariann Martin at mmartin@timesfreepress.com or 706-980-5824.

Replay today's news conference at Mosaic about the shootings:


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