Now I'm sure you heard about this – that is my readers in the greater Springfield area – but if you haven't let me refresh your memory.
From Sgt. John Delaney of the Springfield Police Department: "At approximately 1:25 A.M. on 01/21 while inside the Mardi Gras Lounge located at 91 Taylor Street a Jose E. Colon age 22 was shot once in the head while sitting at the bar near a stage inside the strip club. Prior to the shooting the victim had been involved in a verbal and physical altercation with other subjects inside the bar. Investigators believe that this was the motive for the murder. The victim was pronounced dead one half hour later at Baystate Medical Center E.R.
"Detectives assigned to the Criminal Investigation Bureau, Homicide Unit under the direction of Capt. Robert McFarlin conducted the investigation and worked around the clock. During the course of the investigation the Homicide detectives talked with witnesses, looked at surveillance cameras and found the murder weapon in the area of the Mardi-Gras with fingerprints. With the combined evidence the Detectives requested and were issued an ARREST WARRANT for the following suspect;
"Rodney Dyron Briggs age 27, last known address , 107 Vadnais Street, Springfield. Described as a...... black male, 5'07 tall, 160 lbs, black hair, brown eyes, a small scar near his left eye, date of birth - 10/08/81.
"Rodney Briggs is considered armed and dangerous. Briggs was a member of the Sycamore Street Posse. On February 14, 2006 the Springfield Police Department and the ATF task Force arrested Briggs for Trafficking in Cocaine and at the time he was arrested with several guns including a Mac-10 which is a high capacity firearm and a .40 caliber handgun. Briggs has a long history with the SPD and has been arrested several times for drug and weapon violations. Investigators believe that Mr. Briggs could still possibly be in the Western Massachusetts Area.
"If anyone has any information on the location of Rodney Briggs please call the C.I.B. at 413-787-6355. If any sees Rodney Briggs please call 9-1-1, do not approach this individual."
So far he hasn't been caught, but the Springfield police have a very high arrest rate in such matters and I'm sure he will.
This incident re-ignited the debates over the safety of being downtown and whether or not strip bars are acceptable businesses to have in a city such as Springfield.
Every area seems to need a community other folks can point to, wag their fingers and go "tsk, tsk." For years it was Holyoke. It was the arson capitol of the region. There were gangs on the street and crime everywhere or at least that was the impression of people.
I'm not sure, having worked on Holyoke for years, that was ever truly the case. It certainly isn't now.
Springfield is now having its turn in the barrel and this murder seems to have either reinforced people's worst opinions or caused a new set of folks to be afraid of downtown.
The many calls to close the Mardi Gras I've seen on Web sites are interesting as historically that club has had relatively few problems. I cover the License Commission meetings and the city's strip clubs are rarely called before the body to defend charges brought against them. The clubs that have the worst problems are those who cater to the youngest legal demographic and yet there haven't been efforts by citizens to close those.
Here is my take on downtown:
The incident at the Mardi Gras was between two bad actors. The victim also had a long history with the police. There is no excuse for murder but this wasn't something random.
I see a lot of police in downtown. Clearly the area is a priority, but they can't be everywhere at all times. People have to be smart. If you don't want trouble, stay away if you're under-aged and don't have a "pre-game" party in your car so you're almost in the bag before you go to a club – not that the people who are doing this would listen to anyone.
You can get in trouble almost anywhere if you say the wrong thing at the wrong time, wave your money around and stay out too late.
Downtown needs more restaurants and night spots that cater to an older – 35-50 – crowd. I know that is easier said than done in this economy. Non-booze oriented entertainment businesses such as a traditional coffee house or a movie theater would help.
Perhaps we need a new marketing slogan for downtown, such as "Most Get Out Alive," or "We're Open Later than Northampton" or "Downtown Springfield: Not as Bad You Think."
Really, folks, downtown is indeed not as bad as you think.
© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs