Less than a week into the new year, South Queens has registered its first murder of 2013.
A Brooklyn man was shot dead and another man was hurt in what police say were two separate incidents outside the same nightclub in Richmond Hill before dawn on Sunday.
Police responded to a call of a man assaulted outside Flavor Lounge at 117-03 Hillside Ave. around 3:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. When they arrived, they discovered Kwasi Olatunji, 36, of Canarsie, Brooklyn shot twice in the torso on the street near the club. He was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center where he later died.
A second man, a 27-year-old whom police declined to identify, was stabbed in the leg with a broken bottle and was also taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center where he was listed in stable condition. No arrests have been made in connection with either incident and police say the investigation is ongoing. They say they do not believe the two incidents are directly related.
The nightclub is located at the same site of the famed Jahn’s ice cream parlor, a neighborhood staple for decades until it closed in 2007. A Mexican restaurant occupied the site until the Flavor Lounge opened a year ago. The night of the incident, the club was hosting its “Exotic Saturdays” event, which was heavily promoted on the establishment's Facebook page. The morning after the shooting incident, the club’s owners posted a statement on Facebook.
“This morning we had an unfortunate incident outside of Flavor Lounge. We are cooperating with everyone to see this incident resolved,” the statement read. The club was open for business Sunday evening.
A police van idled across the street from the crime scene at Myrtle and Hillside avenues Monday morning as local residents stood by, looking at the blood on the sidewalk, which could be easily mistaken for red spray paint.
Neighbors who live near Flavor Lounge said there have not been any serious incidents to their knowledge stemming from the club, but there has been noise.
“Sometimes you hear people hanging out on the corner late at night,” said one neighbor, who lives in an apartment nearby, “But nothing too serious. Certainly nothing like this.”
He said he had never called to complain about the noise, and did not know if anyone else had.
“They’re sometimes loud while waiting for cabs or walking to the train,” he said. “I’d be surprised if no one else has called.”
He added that he had never seen police come to the club before.
The 102nd Precinct and Community Board 9 have often fielded complaints from residents and some business owners of noise, fights and lewd behavior allegedly stemming from partygoers leaving nightclubs, bars and other establishments along Jamaica Avenue, mainly between Woodhaven Boulevard and the Van Wyck Expressway. Sunday’s shooting was not the first involving a fight outside a nightclub in the area.
A man was shot dead last October on 102nd Street after a fight occurred outside of a billiards hall on Jamaica Avenue, about a mile from where Sunday’s incident took place.
Police have targeted a few nightclubs along the strip in Richmond Hill after residents on side streets complained of inebriated clubgoers urinating or sleeping in their front yards, most notably during a public forum at 2010 CB 9 meeting, where more than a dozen residents who live near Jamaica Avenue expressed their concerns that problems stemming from the nightclubs may escalate.
But CB 9’s District Manager Mary Ann Carey said that while the board has seen some complaints, it has not been anything out of the ordinary.
“We’ve received some complaints, a shooting here or there,” she said. “But that’s bound to happen when you have alcohol and men and women.”
She added that the board approved Flavor Lounge’s liquor license in September 2011 and have not received any complaints about the club or its owners since. CB 9 has rejected liquor license renewals for problem places in the past.
Sunday’s shooting occurred one block from Jamaica Avenue, in a typically busy part of Richmond Hill where Lefferts Boulevard, Jamaica, Hillside, and Myrtle avenues all come together and a few blocks from the 102nd Precinct.