ATLANTA — The Atlanta community is calling for answers and action after Michael Gidewon was shot and killed at the Republic Lounge on the city's westside over the weekend. He owned the nightclub, along with several other establishments, with his brothers.
Atlanta Police said a customer was thrown out for being drunk and then shot Gidewon, 49, in the parking lot.
Gidewon left the East African country of Eritrea to escape violence – only to die while running his business. Police said the customer who got kicked out of the club came back with a gun.
The shooting is a painful reminder for Aaliyah Strong.
“I'm thinking this cannot be real, another nightclub shooting,” Strong said.
Strong's fiancé, Ty Ross, was shot and killed while working as a security guard at Encore Hookah Lounge last February.
“I can just imagine the heartbreak and the grief and the trauma that they're experiencing and just the confusion of it all," Strong said. "I know that's exactly what I went through.”
Strong started the gun violence organization Tyme to Thrive Beyond Grief and spoke with Atlanta City Council members after this weekend's shooting.
“We need more APD presence in nightclubs in general. We need more security training, de-escalation training," Strong said.
Crime and safety expert Mark Baughman worked in law enforcement for numerous agencies for over 35 years.
“I was in charge of advice, and I dealt with a lot of bar owners in Pinellas County (Florida) when I worked for the sheriff's office," Baughman said. "Nightclubs should make sure they have the proper type of security, meaning good CCTV coverage. They have their own personal security. These guys have been vetted.”
Baughman said nightclubs are vulnerable places due to the variety of people going there and the presence of alcohol. He recommends security guards regularly make checks of the entire club.
“They should know when to call the police when these events arise. That security person should say, ‘Okay, this is way beyond me taking control of this and getting somebody put out of the bar,’” Baughman said.
You can do certain things to protect yourself if you're going to a bar or nightclub, including parking in a well-lit area.
“Obviously have your senses when you walk in the door," Baughman said. "Don't go in there if you're inebriated, and don't leave there inebriated, especially if you're driving. Be mindful of the surroundings around you as well.”
“Grief is hard losing somebody tragically, losing somebody for no reason and in front of your workplace," Strong said. "You go to work to provide for your family and your children not thinking that that is where you're going to lose your life.”
Atlanta has a manager of nightlife and culture, also called the 'night mayor,' who deals with safety issues. 11Alive reached out numerous times to a city spokesperson hoping to set up an interview. He told us they did not have time to make it happen on Monday.
Tyme to Thrive Beyond Grief also helps families affected by gun violence through a variety of resources, including low-cost therapy. The organization also delivered gifts to about a dozen families before the Christmas holiday.