PORT CHARLOTTE — One man has been arrested following the shooting of two people early Saturday morning as a party was dispersing from a rented hall on the 2400 block of Tamiami Trail. Nicholas Adrian Whyte, 24, of Lehigh Acres, was charged with two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. An unidentified male victim was flown to the trauma center at Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, suffering from a gunshot wound to the stomach, according to Charlotte County Sheriff’s Lt. Richard McDonald. An earlier CCSO report had him listed in stable condition. A female victim, shot in the wrist, was taken to a local hospital, where she was treated and released, McDonald said.
Charlie Greenwald witnessed the shootings, as he was working late Friday night — as he usually does when someone books an occasion at his 24/21 Event Center. About 1 a.m., he said, he talked to a couple of sheriff’s deputies parked behind his business, who said they were just keeping an eye on the neighborhood. “They said, ‘Your place is quiet. They’re having a party,’” Greenwald said. “Everything was going fine.” By 2:15 a.m., the music had shut off and the reggae party was breaking up, he said. Fifteen minutes later, however, shots rang out in the parking lot. “All I heard was pop, pop, pop, pop,” Greenwald said. “I knew what the sound was; I lived in the Bronx. We used to call it our alarm clock.” He walked out of his back office and saw half a dozen people hiding in a small room. He then walked to the large hall, where he saw another person ducking behind the bar as more shots were fired. He immediately backed away. “I’m brave, but I’m not stupid,” Greenwald said. “Then I heard people just scattering out of the parking lot.” According to McDonald, a deputy nearby heard the commotion. “The officer thought it was firecrackers because there were so many,” McDonald said. The officer saw a car flee the scene, gave pursuit, and pulled over the three occupants a mile south on U.S. 41, McDonald said. At that point, Whyte was arrested. His bond information was unavailable late Saturday. Investigators later found 28 shell casings in the parking lot, Greenwald said. In addition, there were two bullet holes in the outside wall of the event center, a third bullet hole in the doorway glass, and still another through the windshield of a parked car. Greenwald is a managing partner of the 24/21 Event Center, which opened in July. He also owns the building at 2421 Tamiami Trail, which previously housed an Internet cafe before it was shut down. This was the first time there had been any trouble at the center, which has been rented out for numerous events sponsored by local chambers of commerce, churches and the Boys & Girls Clubs, he said. Appropriate waivers were signed by the party hosts for Friday’s event, including one allowing the serving of alcohol, as long as it wasn’t sold. Still, Greenwald said the center would change its policy for parties. But the business would go on, he vowed. “This is out of the norm and will never happen again. But we’re going to stay here,” said the New York native, undeterred. “This won’t damage our reputation, because this is not us. We don’t invite this sort of thing.” Then Greenwald, without a wink of sleep during the night, went on cleaning up the building, hoping he could get the pane of glass replaced before hosting a wedding later that afternoon.
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