Early Thursday, just two months after Balletto’s grand opening, a man who police say they think had been a patron was shot and killed in a silver BMW parked within steps of the club’s front door. Police said they’re investigating whether the gunfire was the result of a dispute in the club that spilled out to the sidewalk after the 2 a.m. closing.
The shooting comes as police are reorienting their deployment to deal with the challenge that comes with the District’s burgeoning night scene. It also shows how violence associated with closing times is not limited to clubs along U Street, Adams Morgan and other areas that traditionally have more nightclubs. Downtown Washington has seen an increase in night life, as well.
Among those in attendance at Balletto was a Washington Redskins running back, who said on Twitter that he left before the shooting, and a New York Giants linebacker. Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith had been to the club in the past, the team confirmed. He canceled a scheduled appearance there Saturday because of the shooting.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier has not invoked her emergency powers to shut Balletto for up to four days. She used that power at other clubs 15 times in 2012 and twice this year to help slow club-associated violence.
Authorities said witnesses told them that the victim had been to Balletto before the shooting, but detectives were reviewing surveillance video to confirm those accounts.
Lt. Robert Alder, commander of the homicide squad, said police do not know of a motive for the shooting. But he said the manager of the club and its valet reported two groups of people arguing and pushing outside the door before a man with a gun walked up to the BMW and fired.
The driver, Paul Aime Tanoh Danzo, 24, of Laurel, was killed, police said. He was hit at least once in the head, they said.
The valet said that he heard six shots but that he didn’t see the shooting. He said the victim had been in the club.
Police said the shooter fled in a black BMW with chrome wheels, which they were searching for. No arrests have been made.
A man who answered the phone at Balletto and identified himself as the manager said nothing occurred in the club that led to the dispute outside. He said he didn’t know whether the victim had been in his club. He said two men argued and went their separate ways, then one returned and started shooting.