Scene of Saturday morning Trenton murder has had trouble in the past

Detectives spent the weekend collecting evidence, including surveillance footage from two city bars, they hope will help them piece together what happened moments before a 39-year-old city man was gunned down outside a bar wracked by a recent spate of gun violence.

Witnesses described hearing panicked screams of patrons fleeing from La Guira Bar when a hail of gunfire broke out in the bar parking lot shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday morning. Some people rushed to help the victim, Patrick Walker, who was slumped on the sidewalk suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Others ran for cover, witnesses said. Police aren’t saying whether anyone got a good glimpse of the suspect, who remains unidentified and at large.

A neighbor said she was awoken by as many as 10 gunshots. The woman, who declined to give her name but owns Ann’s Place, a bar across the street from La Guira, said she peeked out her window around 3 a.m. and saw a man, presumably a witness to the shooting, leaving the scene in a police patrol car.

“Chaos never occurs until after 2 a.m.,” she said.

The bar remained cordoned off with yellow police tape until around 11 a.m., and a police cruiser blocked off part of the murder scene as investigators shuffled in and out of the establishment.

This is the second shooting death this year outside La Guira, which is located at the corner of Poplar Street and North Clinton Avenue, prompting concern from residents and the owner of Ann’s Place, about how the most recent shooting will impact business.

Police were unable to immediately provide information on the number of times they’ve been called out to La Guira in the last year.

But in the past, the owner of Ann’s Place said North Ward bars have been viewed as a hotbed for violence. She said she and her husband, who co-own the bar, have done their best to ensure patrons feel safe, hiring additional security and bouncers on weekends.

In particular, La Guira has been plagued by gun violence dating back to March, when 33-year-old convicted felon Rasheem Ingram was arrested and charged after he opened fire inside the packed bar, leaving a single bullet hole in the ceiling.

Then in July, 20-year-old Enrico Smalley Jr. was shot in the head outside of the establishment. Police later arrested and charged 30-year-old Shaheed Brown with Smalley’s murder. But his attorney has raised doubt about whether his client was the shooter, claiming he was at the bar with Smalley to clear the air about an attempt on his life that allegedly took place the week before at La Guira.

The bar was also the site of a street fight that culminated in a pair of police brutality lawsuits being filed against city cops and the indictment of officer Nidia Colon, who was charged last year with official misconduct for allegedly beating up a woman who attended a birthday party at the bar in February 2012.

The melee, which reportedly involved several city cops, was captured by nearly two dozen surveillance cameras. Shortly after that, bar owner Martin Rodriguez said Trenton police routinely visited his bar and cut him tickets for noise complaints and being over capacity as retaliation for the indictment of one of their own.

Rodriguez wasn’t at the bar Sunday afternoon and couldn’t be reached by phone to comment on the most recent shooting. A woman at the cash register who identified herself as a relative of Rodriguez said detectives had been at the bar downloading footage of Saturday’s shooting. The bar recently had problems storing the surveillance footage onto its hard drive, she said, but Saturday’s shooting appeared to be captured in full. Detectives from the Mercer County Homicide Task Force also visited Ann’s Place sometime Sunday to retrieve footage. The owner said those tapes are stored for 10 days before they’re recorded over.

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