Senior club where 5 were shot in Gary had history of trouble

2014-02-13T14:00:00Z 2014-02-14T19:07:25Z Senior club where 5 were shot in Gary had history of troubleLauri Harvey Keagle lauri.keagle@nwi.com, (219) 852-4311 nwitimes.com

GARY | The senior club where five people were shot late Wednesday was not registered to do business in the state after failing to file documents regarding its nonprofit status, officials said Thursday.

Indiana Excise Police also said they raided the club twice in the past and arrested the then-registered agent on charges of serving alcohol without a permit and promoting professional gambling in both instances.

Police were called about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday to the Safe and Sound Senior Citizens Social Club, 2220 Broadway, for a report of shots fired. When officers arrived, people inside the club told them a gunman entered the club and began ordering them to the ground at gunpoint.

The gunman started shooting and shot four people, including a 65-year-old and a 76-year-old, both from Gary. Other victims include a 43-year-old East Chicago resident and a 45-year-old Chicago resident.  

Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram said the suspect, a 23-year-old Chicago man, was shot by a patron. It was not immediately clear whether the patron was also one of the victims.

The suspect was treated at a local hospital and released to police custody. No charges had been filed as of Thursday night.

Ingram said the suspect fled to the rear of the establishment and tried to get out but was trapped. It is believed the shootings may have been part of an attempted robbery.

Ingram said the suspect acted alone.

All of the victims were transported to the Methodist Hospitals' Northlake Campus in Gary for treatment. Ingram said the 76-year-old Gary man was transported to the trauma center at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood for treatment of a gunshot wound to the chest.

His condition was not known.

According to a Methodist Hospitals official, three patients at the Gary facility are in stable condition. One was treated and discharged.

The Safe and Sound Senior Citizen's Social Club Corp. registered as a nonprofit domestic corporation with the Indiana secretary of state's office in October 2008 with Jessie Sturgis listed as the registered agent.

Sturgis was charged in November 2010 and October 2011 with serving alcohol without a permit and promoting professional gambling at the club, Cpl. Travis Thickstun, of the Indiana State Excise Police, said Thursday morning.

"At the time of those investigations, the club was set up like a bar," Thickstun said, adding it was not licensed as such.

"It had a bar, refrigerator, tables, craps table, cards and dice, jukebox," Thickstun said. "It's in an old storefront that appears as though it may have been a bar many years ago."

The club was dissolved by the Indiana secretary of state's office after failure to file annual business entity reports in 2012 and 2013, said Valerie Kroeger, communications director for the secretary of state's office.

The state requires the reports be filed annually by nonprofit organizations. Kroeger said the dissolution came after multiple past-due notices were sent to the Safe and Sound Senior Citizens Social Club Corp.

The registered agent on file with the Indiana secretary of state's office changed in June 2013 to Willie Lay, who listed the club as his address.

Jessie Sturgis remains listed as incorporator along with a Jessie Thomas Sturgis Jr. Sturgis Sr. is also listed as president and a Thomas James Sturgis Jr. is listed as secretary.

Four different addresses are listed for each of the Sturgises with the secretary of state's office.

Lay, Sturgis and Jessie Thomas Sturgis Jr. could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The building housing the senior club also once served as the headquarters for the Sin City Desciples motorcycle gang, law enforcement officials said.

Chelsea Whittington, spokeswoman for Gary, released a statement saying the club never had a business license with the city, but previous owners had been cited for building violations.

"Building violations including electrical, plumbing and HVAC were identified but were never corrected, so a business license was never issued by the city," Whittington said.

According to Whittington, the property was transferred to a real estate trust out of Griffith in December 2012.

Police are asking anyone with information about the shootings to contact Detective James Bond at (219) 881-4751.

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