Three men were fatally shot at a Landover Hills strip club early yesterday in an altercation that began inside the club and continued in the parking lot, authorities said, adding to an unusual spate of violence in Prince George's County and the District that left 13 people dead in less than 72 hours.
Yesterday's shootings outside the Stardust Inn Go-Go Restaurant and Night Club on Annapolis Road came after a loud dispute involving at least five men in the club, police said. They said three men, all of whom were slain, were arguing with two other men. Witnesses told detectives that the groups were shouting, but it was unclear what the argument was about because some of it was in Spanish.
Outside the club at closing time, about 1:45 a.m., the dispute continued, according to Police Chief Gerald M. Wilson, who said detectives interviewed about 30 witnesses. Nearly all of the witnesses told police that the assailant ran to an older-model green Honda, got a semiautomatic handgun and fired several rounds at the three victims. The suspect was one of the two men arguing in the club with the three men who were killed, police said.
Police said witnesses described the assailant as a black man in his late twenties or early thirties, wearing black pants and a gray shirt. His companion, with whom he fled, was described as a black man with a bushy Afro.
The dead men were identified by police as Francisco Javier Ornelas-Mejia, 29, of the 5600 block of Eighth Street in Alexandria; Noe Ornelas-Cruz, 23, of the 7700 block of Garrison Road in Lanham; and Robert Roman Jr., 19, who lived at the same address as Ornelas-Cruz.
As panic swept through the crowd leaving the club, Wilson said, the shooter and his companion fled in the Honda. Wilson said detectives think that at least one of the men in the Honda was a frequent patron of the Stardust Inn, which advertises $2 draft beers from 4 to 7 p.m. daily and a hot-lunch buffet, telling customers they will "experience the sexiest and best-tasting lunch in town."
"Those people just got mowed down," Wilson said. "It was cold and callous."
He urged anyone with information about the suspect to call the police. "You can't go out and wreak this kind of havoc in the community and somebody not know about it. We'll work with anyone who helps us so that they can remain anonymous."
The three fatal shootings followed a triple slaying in the District early Sunday, when two men and a woman were shot to death in a robbery at the restaurant where they worked in the Brookland neighborhood of Northeast Washington.
The killings were part of a wave of deadly violence in the District and Prince George's in recent days.
About 5 p.m. Saturday, Prince George's police said, Andre Fitzgerald Vincent Jr., 18, was shot to death outside the apartment where he lived on Hilmar Drive in Forestville.
A little over 24 hours later, Clifton Stokes, 53, of Capitol Heights, was beaten to death near his home in what Prince George's police said was a road-rage incident. An off-duty D.C. police officer fatally shot Stokes's assailant.
Shortly before 4:30 a.m. Sunday, D.C. police said, James Deal, 35, of Northeast Washington, was found shot to death at 16th and E streets NE. Then, just after 6 a.m. Monday, Reginald Brightheat, 35, was found dead of a gunshot wound in an apartment in the 2800 block of Robinson Place SE, not far from his home, police said.
Later on Monday, about 3:30 p.m., Carlos Diggs, 55, was found lying on the second-floor landing of a building in the 4200 block of Fourth Street SE, according to police. A woman who said she had been drinking with Diggs was charged with second-degree murder for allegedly pushing him over a third-floor railing.
At 10 p.m. Monday, police said, Peter Wilson, 18, was found shot to death in the 3300 block of Ely Place SE, near his home. At noon yesterday, in Prince George's, an unidentified man was found dead of a gunshot wound in Capitol Heights, police said.
The Stardust Inn gained public attention last month after one of its investors, Tae H. Kim, resigned as a prosecutor in Prince George's after his financial interest in the club was detailed in The Washington Post.
Kim, 30, was hired as a prosecutor in November by then-state's attorney Jack B. Johnson, shortly before Johnson was elected county executive.
One day after the story described his financial stake in the strip club, Kim submitted his resignation to Johnson's successor, State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey.
Telephone calls to the club seeking a comment on the shootings went unanswered yesterday.
Wilson said yesterday's violence has caused him to worry about the growing number of strip clubs in the county.
"There seems to be a proliferation of establishments here that feature nude dancing, and I'm concerned we're starting to attract these places," he said.
"There's generally not a problem inside. It's when people leave that we have to respond to the violence."