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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Woman Sues Florida Club |Over Shooting Injuries

FORT MYERS, Fla. (CN) - A woman wounded in a July nightclub shooting in which her brother and another teen died claims in a lawsuit that lax security at the club during a teenage "Swimsuit Glow Party" led to the tragedy.

Sharrell Strawder, 19, was shot in the leg during the melee that ensued at the club the night of July 25.

Strawder's younger brother, 18-year-old high school basketball star Stef'an Strawder, was shot in the abdomen and died after undergoing emergency surgery.

The other teen killed, Sean Archilles, was only 14 years old.

At least a dozen other victims, some as young as 12 years old, were injured.

At the time of the shooting, Club Blu, a restaurant and lounge in Fort Myers, Fla., was hosting a "Swimsuit Glow Party," where teenagers were told they need only pay $5 admission if they wore a bathing suit.

Shots broke out at the club as the event was ending and parents were picking up their kids in the parking lot, according to the Fort Myers police department.

Strawder's complaint is far from the first lawsuit filed in the wake of the shooting, and her complaint echoes those filed by other plaintiffs.

She claims the club "failed to implement reasonable security" in light of "a substantial amount of violent criminal activity" that had occurred at the premises in years past.

The club also failed to warn attendees about the club's history of violence, the complaint alleges.

The office of Strawder 's attorney, Joseph North, told Courthouse News that her complaint was refiled last week after being previously disposed. North's firm would not specify why the earlier case was discharged.

According to North, the Swimsuit Glow Party should have been cancelled, or never should have been scheduled in the first place, given the history of criminal activity at the club.

North is representing a majority of the surviving victims in litigation over the Club Blu shooting, as well as the estate of Strawder 's brother Stef'an. His clients' lawsuits say the reason for the shooting remains "unknown."

Dennis Webb, another Fort Myers-area attorney, is representing the estate of Sean Archilles, according to court records.

All told, more than ten lawsuits have been filed in Lee County alleging that Club Blu is liable for the bloodshed. The cases starting flowing into the circuit court within three days of the incident.

Terry Pannell and Brandy McLaughlin, two of the plaintiffs, say they were caught in the gunfire while providing security for the club. Pannell purportedly suffered a non-life-threatening gunshot wound.

The day after the shooting, the club apologized and said it had taken extensive precautions to prevent violence at the event.

"We are deeply sorry for all involved. We tried to give the teens what we thought was a safe place to have a good time. Ages 12-17. There were armed security as well as full security, inside and out," the club wrote on its social media page. "There was nothing more we could [have] done."

Shortly before the shooting, Club Blu's liquor license was reportedly revoked for failure to properly maintain business records. The revocation made alcohol-free teen parties an important source of revenue for the club.

No one has been charged directly with the shooting, and police have not pinpointed a motive, save to say that the incident was "not an act of terror ... or terrorism."

Speculation has run rampant as to who was responsible, with some blaming gang activity in the Fort Myers area, and others pointing to a group of teens "beefing" as a possible trigger for the carnage.

McLaughlin for one told local reporters that the shooting was simply the product of "an idiot with a firearm."

Three men Derrick Church, Demetrius O'Neal and Tajze Battle were arrested after an encounter with the Fort Myers Police Department and the Lee County Sheriff's Office on the night of the shooting.

Church, the driver of a car in which the men were riding, allegedly fled when officers tried to pull him over in a neighborhood near the club, based on a call about a suspicious vehicle in the area.

Once the chase ended, O'Neal and Battle bailed from the car and tried to escape on foot, the sheriff's office claims.

They were caught and charged with resisting an officer without violence.

A deputy shot Church, claiming the man drove toward him in a threatening manner.

Church was booked for alleged aggravated assault on an officer, though neither he, O'Neal nor Battle faced charges for the Club Blu attack.

A MasterPiece Arms pistol, believed to have been used in the attack, was found near Club Blu and was traced back to its original buyer, Jazmin Barron of Lehigh Acres, police say.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives slapped Barron with federal charges for listing an incorrect address on her paperwork for the gun purchase in 2015.

A torched car that turned up a few blocks away from the club was reported to be tied to the shooting, though Fort Myers police have not commented on the connection.

Two additional parties are named as defendants in the lawsuits over the shooting: Carrell Corners West (the operator of the plaza where the club was located) and IMC Property Management and Maintenance.

Jennifer Burby, the attorney for Carrell Corners, declined to comment when reached by phone.

Club Blu has reputedly been the site of gun violence in the past, as two men are said to have been shot there in May 2015.

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