Atmore men arrested in party shooting
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
More than two months and two weeks after gunfire rang out during a private party at a former county school building in Atmore, two local men have been charged in connection with the death of the only individual to lose his life in the deadly incident.
In a press release issued August 5, Police Chief Chuck Brooks said APD investigators arrested 21-year-old Michael Lashan Weaver Jr. and 22-year-old Michael Bernard Pettway, both of Atmore, and have charged both suspects with murder.
Crishawn Jermaine Westry, 19, was killed in the hail of bullets fired inside the cafeteria of the old middle school on Martin Luther King Drive in the early hours of May 18. Eight other people were hit by bullets but survived.
Brooks said Weaver and Pettway are charged only with Westry’s murder, that investigators are continuing their search for other shooters as they await analysis of evidence by state crime lab technicians.
“They are only charged with the murder,” Brooks said. “We continue to investigate the other victims who were shot.”
Police have interviewed scores of witnesses in at least four states as they have searched for the gunmen who traded rounds during the party, which was reportedly attended by as many as 600 people.
Investigators and officers from other agencies have executed at least three search warrants during their probe of the shooting. Handguns were discovered inside at least two of the residents searched, although police have not confirmed that they have recovered the murder weapon.
It was another kind of warrant that helped city police solve Crishawn Westry’s fatal shooting.
Brooks said officers went to an undisclosed location Friday (August 2) to serve outstanding warrants on both men. Evidence discovered and recovered at that scene proved conclusive enough that city detectives sought and were able to obtain a murder warrant.
“They were picked up last week on non-related warrants,” the police chief said Monday. “They were arrested at the county jail this morning on the murder warrants.”
Several hundred people — ranging from adults in their 20s to teens as young as 14 — paid $10 apiece to attend the party at Atmore Family Life Center, a private community center located inside the former school and leased by a private citizen from the Escambia County School System. (Superintendent of Education John Knott reported immediately after the party that ECSS was cancelling the lease.)
Most of the party action took place inside the former school cafeteria, where reports show that all but one door and window were reportedly locked and chained shut. Things apparently went well until around 2 a.m., when two women got into an altercation and several men tried to intervene.
Westry was reportedly standing near one of the shooters when bullets began to fill the room. He was apparently killed instantly.
An employee of the Escambia County Detention Center’s booking and release division reported Tuesday that Weaver and Pettway remain behind bars, each under $500,000 bond.