Jesse Evans, Editor | Hempstead Herald

A large fundraising party deteriorated into a gunfight early Easter morning at the former Western Sizzlin’ building in Hope.

According to people in attendance, the venue had been rented out to host a party to raise money for a headstone for Emanuel Rogers who was killed in a car pursuit on September 21, 2014.

There is no number available on the number of attendees but the large parking lot between the former restaurant and the Best Western Motel was packed with vehicles throughout the night.

At approximately 1:50 a.m. on Easter Sunday morning, a Hempstead County Deputy on duty at the Best Western came across the radio to notify Hope Police that shots were being fired at the party. At least 6 shots were heard in the background during his brief transmission. Patrol officers, deputies and detectives, who were already out investigating an earlier stabbing, responded immediately to the scene.

Shortly after arrival, police notified dispatch that there was one person down.

Pafford EMS was contacted and sent two ambulances to the scene. On arrival they only located one injured person who wasn’t shot but had been physically assaulted during the chaos. The male was transported to Wadley Regional Medical Center by Pafford with a deputy escort.

Witnesses we spoke to were unclear on how the shooting got started but said that all at once dozens of shots rang out as two different groups began firing across the parking lot at each other. One group of shooters was on the banquet hall side of the parking lot and the other was near the Best Western.

People caught outside when the gunfire began ducked behind cars or fled by car or on foot. Amazingly, no one at the scene when law enforcement arrived had been shot but several vehicles and the buildings had sustained damage from the gunfire. Police catalogued and collected several dozen ammo casings and at least one pistol magazine from the former Western Sizzlin’ building to backside the Best Western.

Guests at the motel were startled and frighted when they were awakened by the sudden flurry of gunfire. Some hunkered down in their rooms while others ventured out to see what was happening. There did not appear to be any damage sustained to guests’ vehicles and no one at the motel was injured.

Owners of the venue, Mike and Scarlett Brown, were contacted and arrived on scene to assess the damages to their banquet hall. The Brown’s said they regularly rent the venue out for clubs, receptions, reunions and other events. The couple was flabbergasted at what had transpired.

Police are still investigating the incident. We will update as more information becomes available.


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