Shots Fired In East Wheeling Near American Legion Post 89 Spurs Dialog

Shell Casings Found Near Legion Post 89

Photo by Alec Berry American Legion Post 89

WHEELING — Fourteen shell casings coalesced in and around an East Wheeling street early Saturday morning after a shots fired incident, and now, city officials sit with renewed interest to address a nearby private club possibly associated with the violence.

The event at 15th and Jacob streets occurred at about 3:30 a.m. near the American Legion Post 89. Wheeling police said numerous people were seen leaving the scene upon response, and a bystander suffered minor injuries from a bullet fragment. An investigation is underway, though department spokesman Philip Stahl said Wheeling police do not have a suspect.

The department does have a security camera mounted atop a light pole at the corner of 15th and Jacob streets, which Stahl said would be reviewed.

Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said some forensic evidence was collected, and he is confident an arrest will result from the investigation. He said it was too soon to note a possible motive for the event.

Stahl acknowledged the area has been a troublesome hub for criminal activity, and Schwertfeger said he has been in contact with the American Legion’s owner regarding past problems.

Notably, on Oct. 9, 2015, 33-year-old Lemroy Coleman died of gunshot wound following a brief interaction with Dallas Acoff, of Cleveland, inside the American Legion. Acoff was later found guilty of second-degree murder.

In October 2011, a man was shot in the arm outside the Legion, and in 2014, 16 shots were fired at 14th and Eoff streets. These and other events have led to a belief within the neighborhood that the establishment no longer represents veterans but interstate crime.

Schwertfeger said generally anytime a bar elicits repeat service calls, the department will monitor the location. He said if trouble persists, he can take action and label the business a nuisance bar, and City Manager Robert Herron could then shutter it. Schwertfeger has not made such a measure in his time as police chief.

Mayor Glenn Elliott said the club has been the subject of at least 15 private meetings he’s attended as a public official, and said the last time it was mentioned among city officials it sounded as if “the next straw will break the camel’s back.”

He said at this point it’s hard to defend any argument for keeping the Legion open, as Saturday’s incident was a blunt reminder of management’s failure to address noted concerns. He said the club has been provided every opportunity to improve.

Third Ward Councilman Brian Wilson, who represents East Wheeling, said Schwertfeger has been more than fair by not yet deeming the Legion a nuisance. He said not everyone who frequents the bar is a bad person, but said some there simply “like to shoot each other.”

“The longer it goes on and the more this stuff happens, the less tolerance the neighbors and I have for it,” Wilson said. “Something’s got to give.”

Elliott said he’s sensitive to the Legion’s history. He understands it was once a staple in the community, but said he now believes it’s holding back investment in the neighborhood.

Dominick Cerrone, owner and operater of Good Mansion Wines on 14th Street, said if his business harbored such behavior, there’d be no chance of it continuing. He said in fairness this activity may have nothing to do with the American Legion, but said in general he’s frustrated by the limited police presence in East Wheeling.

A resident of the neighborhood since the 1980s, Cerrone said East Wheeling’s issues with continued crime are a systemic problem rooted in governance. He said upon activity such as a shots fired incident, police and city response is usually marred with hesitation. He understands the department is already stretched, and that targeted enforcement will only relocate criminal activity, but said as a taxpayer he expects fair treatment.

Schwertfeger disputes this claim. He said the department conducted a specific operation within East Wheeling recently to target an upward tick in crime.

Elliott said residents can expect further word from the city soon regarding the Legion. He said he will meet with Herron this week to discuss the matter.

Police were called to the Legion at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for a report of a woman who claimed to having been assaulted by another woman inside the club.

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