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Andrew Wilson Jr.

Andrew Wilson posted on Facebook on Saturday morning encouraging his friends to come to Bella Vita on Chattanooga's emergent Southside that night and to leave their "gang banging" at the house.

"SECURITY AND POLICE IN FULL EFFECT!!!!!" he wrote in his 3:11 a.m post.

Just 23 hours later, police were indeed present at Bella Vita.

They arrested Wilson, 31, and charged him with criminal homicide in the shooting of 40-year-old Johnny Sanders, a security guard at the Cowart Street venue where two men have now been shot in the last two months.

Officers were called to Bella Vita at 2:12 a.m. Sunday, according to Wilson's arrest affidavit. They found Sanders with a gunshot wound to his upper chest, and Wilson being held by other security guards at the Mediterranean restaurant that moonlights as a weekend nightclub.

Wilson told an officer he shot in self-defense. He told a similar story in 2013 when he was charged in another fatal shooting. He's facing a June 15 trial on charges of second-degree murder in the death of Desmond McClure, according to Hamilton County Criminal Court records.

But Chattanooga police said video of Sunday's shooting showed Wilson drew a pistol and shot Sanders while Sanders exchanged punches with another man, according to the affidavit.

That followed a scuffle between Wilson and security in the club that led a security guard to spray Wilson with pepper spray. Wilson paced around, "getting visibly upset," before he pulled the gun and fired, according to the affidavit.

Wilson did not have a valid carry permit for the pistol, according to the affidavit. He remained in the Hamilton County Jail on a $1 million bond Sunday.

The slaying wasn't the day's only shooting. Police said a 42-year-old woman was struck and injured by a bullet while she lay sleeping in her home on 15th Avenue. And officers responded to a "person shot" call shortly after 8 p.m. in the 1200 block of Tunnel Boulevard. Casey Carter, 20, was wounded, and police were looking for a suspect in a blue Mercury.

Sanders' death was the city's 13th homicide of the year, and it's not the first shooting at Bella Vita.

Reuben Simpson, 35, was shot in the head near the restaurant early in the morning on March 13, also a Sunday. Bella Vita staff confirmed Simpson had been at the establishment, police said in a news release. Simpson's wounds were not considered life-threatening.

The 12,000 square-foot venue opened as Bella Vita in January of 2015 in the building formerly known as Niko's Southside Grill.

It's located in the heart of the Southside neighborhood, an up-and-coming part of town rife with new restaurants and upscale apartments.

The co-owner, Tammie Taylor, said in an emailed statement late Sunday night that "we take extreme precautions to protect our customers and Johnny [Sanders] was doing his job removing an unruly customer from the Ultra Lounge.

"That customer evidently went to his car, got a gun and shot Johnny who was still outside. We are devastated by the tragic loss of a great man," Taylor's statement said.

Hamilton County property records list the owner of the Cowart Street property as South Carolina-based Cowart LLC, which is a group of Chattanooga investors with restaurant experience, according to newspaper archives.

The Better Business Bureau lists Taylor and Ronald Berke as owners. Attempts to reach Berke, a local attorney and the uncle of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, were unsuccessful Sunday.

Ronald Berke's name was listed on a 2015 beer permit application for the restaurant.

It's unclear if Wilson had any official tie to Bella Vita beyond his frequent promotions of the venue on Facebook.

The homicide is the city's first this month, following a rash of gang-related shootings in April.

"WOKE UP THIS MORNING SMILING, BLESSED TO SEE ANOTHER DAY," Wilson said in an April 25 Facebook post. "HURT A LITTLE DUE TO ALL THESE SHOOTINGS AND KILLINGS GOING ON. CHATTANOOGA HAS 12 HOMICIDES MEMPHIS HAS 75 HOMICIDES. ALREADY THIS YEAR. WHAT'S REALLY GOING ON?"

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

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