The parents of a 21-year-old man shot to death at a violence-prone southeast Georgia nightclub have settled their claims against the club’s owner for $1 million.
Antonio Walker was shot in December 2015 at a rural former American Legion hall near Sylvania that was known by an assortment of names including The Spot, The Zone Bar & Grill, The Legion and Club Primetime among others.
The club had no signage, but “people pack this place every weekend,” according to a news report.
According to plaintiffs attorney Alexander Salzillo and a demand letter he wrote last year, the club’s owner, Minus Gaines Jr., bought the property from the American Legion in 1982.
“He was not actively operating the nightclub at the time; he was renting it out for parties on weekends,” said Salzillo, an attorney with Savannah’s Jamie Casino Injury Attorneys.
“Based on what we pieced together, a fight broke out inside the club and spilled out into the parking lot,” he said.
Walker sent a friend to get the car they were using “because things were getting kind of crazy,” said Salzillo, when an unidentified gunman fired several shots in the parking lot, one of which struck Walker.
“They were apparently not intended for Antonio,” Salzillo said.
Walker died en route to the hospital, and no arrest was ever made in the case.
“It seems there were people who know who pulled the trigger, but they were unwilling to come forward,” he said.
Salzillo said the club’s history of fights and shootings made it a “ticking time bomb.”
His demand letter cited a half-dozen calls to Screven County 911 reporting fights and gunfire at the club in the two years prior to Walker’s death, including one two months before Walker’s death regarding a large fight with between 10 and 32 shots fired.
Even Gaines himself was assaulted at the club, the letter said, and thus had “actual and constructive knowledge of the hazards posed by the criminal element in and around his premises.”
The letter demanded Gaines’ $1 million Covington Specialty Insurance policy limits on behalf of Walker’s parents, Sharon Gibbons and Willie Walker Jr.
The insurer agreed to those terms last month, but the settlement was only finalized a few days ago.
“Antonio’s parents are great people; they’ve been grieving without closure for so long, it really please me to bring them some kind of justice,” Salzillo said.
He also had high praise for the Screven County judge overseeing the arrangements for Walker’s estate.
“We just met with Probate Court Judge Debbie Brown, and I have to say she is the most compassionate judge I’ve ever seen; she was almost like a grief counselor,” said Salzillo. “She made the process very smooth, efficient and painless.”
Salzillo said the insurer’s counsel, N. Daniel Lovein of Hall Booth Smith’s Brunswick office, was “very professional and thorough in handling the case.”
Lovein did not immediately respond to a request for comment.