Kanawha County Sheriff Johnny Rutherford is stepping up patrols in Cross Lanes in response to a spate of trouble at area bars.
"These bars are in residential neighborhoods," Rutherford said Monday. "Someone innocent is going to get hurt. It's got to stop."
Early on the morning of Dec. 26, a fight outside Appetizer's Restaurant & Lounge in Cross Lanes erupted into a hail of gunfire that sent one man to the hospital with a bullet wound to the leg. Sheriff's deputies say about 50 shots were fired from at least three different handguns in the fracas.
Officials for the state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration have suspended the lounge's liquor license while they investigate the circumstances surrounding the shooting. Calls to the restaurant have not been answered.
"It's not just one bar," Rutherford said. "It's a number of bars."
In 2013, deputies were called to Appetizer's lounge 19 times, to McNalley's Pub 14 times and to Bobby's Bar and Grill 18 times, Rutherford said. All three bars are in the same general area.
But what used to be routine calls about fights or domestic disputes have increasingly involved guns in Cross Lanes, Rutherford said. "This wasn't one gunshot," he said. "This was multiple shots fired.
"It wasn't like this a year ago. I've been here for 36 years, and we have never had this kind of calls in Cross Lanes."
Rutherford said seven extra deputies will be working Cross Lanes on New Year's Eve, in addition to the deputies who are usually assigned to the area. They will be looking for impaired drivers, but will also keep an eye on bars in the area.