Desmond Bowen was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on Thursday after firing a weapon in April 2018 during a party inside The Lyric Oxford.
U.S. Attorney William C. Lamar said in a news release that Bowen, a resident of Memphis, was sentenced for being a convicted felon in possession of ammunition. Bowen pleaded guilty in November for his role in the shooting at The Lyric Oxford on April 27, 2018.
The news release also stated that Bowen fired a shot upward after attending, and the shot hit the underside of a balcony, which ricocheted and struck another patron at the venue.
The incident occurred during Oxford’s Double Decker festival and drew attention from the mayor, police department and Board of Aldermen who saw it as a negative representation of Oxford’s nightlife. Immediately after the shooting, Mayor Robyn Tannehill called for increased security at venues on the Square and said the incident did not represent the “quality of life and safety that people are used to in Oxford.” She expressed disappointment that the shooting occurred during what she described as the most well-attended Double Decker she had seen in her 23 years of working with the event.
“Information presented as part of the case against Bowen showed that he attended a party at the Lyric Theater in April on Double Decker Weekend when a fight broke out inside the theater,” the news release read. “Bowen fired a shot upward, which hit the underside of a balcony, ricocheted and struck a patron.”
U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills called Bowen a “risk to the public” and noted the senselessness of Bowen’s acts in discharging the weapon within the crowded space.
“The discharge of a weapon inside a crowded public place demonstrates a reckless disregard for the safety of others,” Lamar said in the news release. “In the instant case, the individual discharging the gun was prohibited by law from even possessing a firearm or ammunition.”
Bowen’s shooting led to increased security measures on the Square and to Tannehill meeting with local law enforcement agencies about increased security at event venues.
Some Oxford residents have said the shooting led to the controversial alcohol safety and security ordinance, which led to increased security efforts on the Square, the implementation of ID scanners to gain entry to bars and a requirement for all businesses that serve alcohol to install security cameras.
City officials denied claims that the ordinance was a response to the incident at The Lyric and said the ordinance had been in the works for years.
The investigation of Bowen was the work of federal and state law enforcement groups including the Oxford Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
In January 2015, OPD made a similar arrest after a man fired a shot from a .45 semiautomatic handgun inside Round Table on the Square, a bar around the corner from The Lyric. Joey East, then the city’s police chief, said it appeared the shot was fired accidentally. He also said bouncers may not always be able to notice a handgun when working security at bars.
“It can be hard, especially when it is concealed,” he said. “And we certainly don’t encourage anyone to go into a restaurant or anything with a concealed handgun.”
Some information was gathered from Associated Press wire reports.