Fatal shooting still mystery


The Belleville Police Department’s Homicide/Major Crimes Unit and Essex County Prosecutor’s Office are investigating a fatal shooting in the 200 block of Belleville Ave. during the early morning hours last Thursday.

A joint press release by Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray and Belleville Police Chief Joseph Rotonda identified the victim as Michael Williams II, 28, of Newark.

“While the investigation is continuing, it appears that the victim had been a patron at a gentleman’s club [Wet] prior to the shooting,” the release said. “The motive is unclear.”

As of last week, no arrests had been made.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office tips line at 1-877-TIPS-4EC or 1-877-7432.

Several prior incidents of misbehavior have brought law enforcement agents to the stripper bar or its environs.

Among the more recent episodes:

• A 39-year-old Hackensack livery-cab driver who was reportedly followed after an argument at the club was fatally shot June 12 as he was driving on Interstate 80 in Saddle Brook by two Newark suspects who were subsequently arrested and charged with the crime.

• One of the club’s dancers was charged with engaging in prostitution and two intoxicated female patrons were slapped with disorderly conduct charges for allegedly interfering with a police investigation on Jan. 30, 2014.

• Two club patrons, one from Lyndhurst and the other from Jersey City, were arrested following a fist fight inside the club on the night of Jan. 16, 2014. Police said the Jersey City man allegedly punched an officer trying to break up the fight.

Township Councilman Kevin Kennedy, a representative of the Third Ward where the club is located, told The Observer that in the aftermath of the latest incident, “two bullet holes were found in the corner house at Belleville Ave. and Smith St. It’s a lucky thing nobody in that house got killed. They’ve got to do better security there.

“No question the place is a thorn in the town’s side but closing it is easier said than done,” Kennedy said.

When new management took over the club several years ago and applied for township approvals, few neighbors came out to oppose it, he said. And nobody turned out to speak against the parking lot when the club went before the zoning board on that, he added.

One possible strategy that Kennedy said he plans to pursue with the mayor and the rest of the Township Council is to pass a law requiring the licensee of an establishment serving alcohol to “provide so many seats per square feet” on the premises.

“That’s how [former New York City Mayor] Rudy Giuliani did it to control those type of clubs in New York,” the councilman said. “I’m trying to get the resolutions they passed in New York so we can study them.”

But until then, Kennedy said, “we have no power to close the place down.” Even if the township found legal grounds to “take away their ABC [liquor] license, they could always find a way to challenge us and overturn it,” he said.

– Ron Leir 

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