Lyric shooting prompts Mayor Tannehill to call for increased venue security

Posted on May 2 2018 - 5:55am by Blake Alsup

The shooting at The Lyric Oxford on Friday night will likely lead to changes for Oxford music venues.

Mayor Robyn Tannehill said Tuesday evening after a Board of Aldermen meeting that she met with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office Tuesday morning to discuss how to better provide the “quality of life and safety that people are used to in Oxford.”

“You will see us in the coming weeks have some meetings where we will discuss changes to our policies and ordinances regarding entertainment venues,” Tannehill said. “None of those are decided yet, but we’ve already begun discussions about how we will change those things to ensure the safety of folks that are there.”

Tannehill was eating dinner on the Square when the shooting occurred, and said she immediately made her way over to the scene. She was there to see OPD’s response firsthand.

Mayor Robyn Tannehill speaks with OPD Police Chief Joey East outside of The Lyric Oxford on Friday night. OPD is investigating a non-fatal shooting that occurred at the “Shoot your Shot Jersey Party” on the first night of Double Decker Arts Festival. Photo by Billy Schuerman

“I don’t think that they could’ve handled it any better,” Tannehill said. “I don’t remember being that proud of any department head over the past year that I’ve been doing this job. Chief Joey East and our Oxford Police Department had the scene under control in a matter of minutes.”

Tannehill continued, praising the demeanor of officers present as well as their ability to quickly reach a peaceful resolution and their tenacity in investigating the event further.

At 9:58 p.m. Friday during Double Decker Festival, a person fired a shot into the air after a fight broke out during the “Shoot Your Shot” Jersey Party hosted by Epic Entertainment at the Lyric Oxford.

Officers had already been posted outside of the Lyric for Double Decker weekend and were able to quickly respond to the incident.

“Folks just started running out, so our guys started running in, and they said a guy started shooting in there,” OPD Capt. Hildon Sessums said. “All of our officers converged on the place and locked the Lyric down.”

Sessums said the suspect was standing on the first floor of the Lyric underneath one of the balconies when he fired the shot. No one was hit by the bullet, and it lodged into the concrete under the balcony.

According to Sessums, the only injury during the event was sustained by a man who fell onto broken bottles that had been dropped by fleeing partygoers.

Following the shooting, OPD continued to provide its usual security.

“We work Double Decker like a football weekend, and we cover all the way from 4 a.m. on Saturday till the last person leaves the square Sunday morning,” Sessums said.

Oxford Police Department is investigating a shooting that occurred around 10 p.m. Friday night inside The Lyric. No one was injured by the single bullet. Photo by Billy Schuerman

Two suspects have been identified in surveillance photos released by OPD in the days following the shooting. One was wearing a white No. 23 Cleveland Cavaliers jersey, and the other was wearing a North Carolina Tar Heels jersey. OPD also released photos of the vehicle the two men were in, which they identified as an “older model Chevrolet Tahoe.”

On Tuesday afternoon Sessums said, “We don’t have anything further to put out at this time,” though he hopes people will come forward with more information.

“The place was packed, so we know folks were taking pictures,” Sessums said.

Anyone with photos from the party or information about the shooting is encouraged to contact OPD at 662-232-2400 or CrimeStoppers at 662-234-8477.

Although exact numbers haven’t been confirmed yet, Tannehill and Visit Oxford director Mary Allyn Hedges believe this year’s Double Decker Festival was likely the biggest yet.

“I’ve been to 23 [of the festivals], and I don’t think there is any question that this was the largest crowd that we’ve had,” Tannehill said. “We have a combination of the best entertainment we’ve ever had, the best art vendors we’ve ever had [and] a partnership with the Student Activities Association, which I think was tremendous.”

Tannehill said gun violence issues are prevalent every time someone turns on the news, but in Oxford they are not, and city government is determined to keep it that way.

“People who don’t do it right end up changing the rules for everybody,” Tannehill. “That’s the case in everything, and that’s what you’ll see happen here… It’s unfortunate, but it’s going to happen soon.”

Tank and the Bangas brings a large crowd of students and Oxford residents on Saturday. hey were one of many performers at the Double Decker Festival this year. Photo by Christian Johnson