MARTINSVILLE, VA. – Martinsville city leaders are hailing their police department for their response to the shootout at a local bar and restaurant over the weekend. The incident at El Norteno left two people dead and upended the community with one of its most violent events in recent history.
City Council met Tuesday night for its regular meeting and when it came time for member comment, they had a lot to say. While many of the details of Friday’s shooting are not yet public, council members painted a picture of a police department that rushed in to help prevent more people from getting hurt or possibly even dying.
The shooting has left a painful scar for the region. Many are asking where does the city go from here. Martinsville City Councilman Danny Turner said Tuesday night the police department prevented something even worse.
“(Citizens wanted me to share) that they were very, very appreciative of the heroism of one city policeman who rushed in where shots were being fired,” Turner said. “His action probably saved many lives.”
The department was first on scene Friday night after the all-call for help was broadcast. The first responding officer fired their gun and for that reason, the investigation is in the hands of Virginia State Police.
Martinsville Police Chief Eddie Cassady said there is more to come, and for the integrity of the investigation he can’t comment. But he did add that his officers did their job and he appreciates council’s support.
“I’m proud of my officers and again as council members talked about our community police approach and how important our community is to each and every officer in my department and I honestly believe that,” Cassady said.
The two men who died and the two men who were arrested are all Black. Vice-Mayor Jennifer Bowles shared her frustration with racially charged comments shared by community members on social media following the shooting.
“I have seen and heard negative comments about Black people, that we’re all thugs and criminals. And for those who think one incident defines the entire Black community, they’re wrong,” Bowles said. “I’m not condoning violence or excusing the violence, but don’t let the one incident be what you see all Black people as.”
Mayor Kathy Lawson said healing is needed without blame.
“We have a great community and if someone can’t identify with that I truly feel sorry for them as this is a great place to live and to raise your family and to work,” Lawson said.
Virginia ABC confirmed to 10 News Tuesday that the restaurant permanently surrendered its ABC license.
“This means this establishment can no longer purchase or sell alcoholic beverages. By signing the License Surrender Agreement, El Norteno knowingly and voluntarily waived its right to a hearing in accordance with the Code of Virginia,” an ABC spokeswoman told 10 News.