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The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has scheduled an April 4 hearing for Smarta/Broadway, the 9th Street NW nightclub where 17-year-old Taleshia Ford was shot and killed early in the morning of Jan. 20. The Board summarily suspended Smarta/Broadway’s liquor license on Jan. 24. It will now consider whether the nightclub’s license should be permanently revoked.
The Office of the Attorney General will be representing the District of Columbia in this case. Smart Aziken, owner of Smarta/Broadway, will be represented by attorneys Gregory L. Lattimer and Ted J. Williams.
In an interview, Lattimer said he and Williams have worked together before, notably on the fatal shooting of Prince C. Jones by a Prince George’s County Police officer in September 2000.
While the two attorneys typically serve as counselors to the plaintiffs, “this time,” Lattimer says, “we’re defense because, basically, we don’t like what’s going on.”
He calls Aziken a “legitimate businessman” who is being wrongfully punished for Ford’s death. Specifically, he says, if police officers had been posted along the stretch of 9th Street in front of the nightclub, as they were hired to be by a group of area business owners, the tragedy could have been avoided.
“They were supposed to be on that block. The 9th Street business owners hired the police to be on that block. If those police officers were where they were supposed to be, this would never have happened,” Lattimer says.
According to the alcohol board’s summary suspension notice, “although [D.C. police have] established a reimbursable police detail to cover the 1800 and 1900 blocks of 9th Street, which includes the block where the establishment is located, and that…officers were on duty the night of the homicide, they were not in proximity to the establishment at the time of the shooting because they were processing an unrelated arrest for assault with intent to kill at the Third District police station.”
Ford, however, was shot inside the establishment, not outside, after the gunman passed two security guards, and confronted another, the suspension notice says. The notice also lists a series of other incidents in and around the nightclub over the course of the last year.
In November 2006, a patron, also under 21 years old, was stabbed four times outside Smarta/Broadway. In June 2006, a Smarta patron exited the establishment, obtained a gun and fired twice onto the sidewalk. Also in June, D.C. police officers arrested a Smarta patron inside the establishment for cocaine possession. There were 62 calls for service to the nightclub in the 18 months leading up to the Jan. 20 shooting, the suspension notes.
Asked whether Aziken plans to fight to maintain his liquor license, Lattimer said, “He wants to be treated like everyone else and he’s not.”