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Arrests made in Sky Lounge shooting

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Police arrested a Charleston man Tuesday in connection to a triple shooting reported early Saturday morning at Sky Lounge on Capitol Street. Detectives also arrested the man's friend for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

An argument escalated inside the martini lounge at about 2:52 a.m. Saturday as staff escorted three men outside, police said. A man on the street then opened fire, striking the men as they exited.

Charleston Police Lt. Steve Cooper said detectives identified the suspect through surveillance footage and previous run-ins with law enforcement as Braheem Jamal Griffin, 19, of Charleston.

Tuesday afternoon, police apprehended Griffin and his friend, Curtis Watkins, 24, of Charleston, as they ate at Sistah's Rib Shack on the West Side. Cooper said both men were carrying handguns, and Watkins was arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm. It's unclear if Watkins was involved in Saturday's shooting and detectives are still piecing together witness statements, Cooper said.

Cooper said they are also trying to figure out if Griffin knows the victims or if he was involved in the altercation that led the victims to be thrown out of the bar.

Morgan Pauley, the manager of Sky Lounge, said Griffin was not inside her bar before the shooting.

Two men -- Shawn Williams, 23, and Varryl Venson, 44, both of Charleston -- were shot while still inside the bar. A third, William Wallace, 34, of South Charleston, was shot in the street.

The three were taken to CAMC General Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and have since been released.

Griffin was charged Tuesday with three counts of malicious wounding and five counts of wanton endangerment, which is one count for every round allegedly fired.

He was arraigned in Kanawha County Magistrate Court and ordered held in South Central Regional Jail in lieu of a $200,000 bail.

Police took Watkins to CAMC General Hospital Tuesday night, believing that he may have concealed crack cocaine inside his rectum.

"We actually have a search warrant that's going to require medical personnel to assist us in executing," Cooper said. "At this point that's all I'm able to say."

Watkins cursed at reporters as detectives escorted him onto an elevator at the Charleston Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division. He was to be arraigned Tuesday night upon completion of the search warrant.

Cooper said police are familiar with Griffin, and his name has come up during investigations of similar crimes.

"He's been on our radar," he said.

Griffin was a shooting victim himself in January. He reported that an unknown assailant shot him in the calf from an alleyway somewhere in the 1500 block of Second Avenue or Third Avenue on Jan. 27. However, detectives said he was not cooperative and had difficulty re-creating where he was shot. No suspect was arrested or charged in the shooting.

According to reports, Griffin was indicted in April on drug charges. Cooper said police would seek guidance from the Kanawha County prosecuting attorney's office to determine if Griffin also will be charged with felony possession of a firearm.

The state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration has pulled Sky Lounge's liquor license until Oct. 3. Pauley said she would open with new management and would stop playing DJ music on weekends.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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