By Douglas Moser
---- — METHUEN — There were at least two guns fired during the fatal Oct. 23 shooting outside the Sahara Club, and police are confident they have identified a suspect, officials said.
David Rivera, 28, of Lawrence, was shot to death on Greendale Street at about 1 a.m. Oct. 23 as a private party at the Sahara Club let out. Police believe the suspect and Rivera were both in the club before the shooting.
“Two different rounds were discovered on scene, so there are at least two different guns,” Methuen Police Captain Kris McCarthy said at a Nov. 13 Licensing Committee meeting. “We can’t determine whether guns were in the club or not.”
Police have identified at least one person they believe is responsible for the shooting, and have been meeting regularly with a grand jury. “We pretty much know who did it, it’s just a matter of putting it all together,” McCarthy said. “And that person is in custody right now. He’s not on the street.”
The Sahara is a private club, meaning only members or guests with members are allowed inside, in a residential neighborhood on Oak Street. A new member, Angel Sanchez, owner of Le Drink House in Lawrence, rented the Sahara for a private party on Oct. 22. The shooting took place at closing time. Police Chief Joseph Solomon said he did not think the party was the impetus for Rivera’s death.
“I believe this incident was going to occur no matter where it happened,” Solomon said Tuesday. “I don’t believe this shooting was a result of the party.”
Members of the Lebbos family, who attended a licensing hearing Tuesday that included Solomon, said the club had metal detectors Oct. 22, and Sahara attorney William Amann said security personnel used wands on patrons.
“Next time you have an event where you need to set up a metal detector, don’t have the event,” Solomon said Tuesday in response.
Solomon said State Police on the scene in the early morning of Oct. 23 counted about 175 people at the club once police arrived, and he estimated that between 50 and 60 people took off after the shooting and before police arrived.
“We assume there was a significant amount of people who left,” Solomon said.
He does not believe the club was over its capacity of 240, though. That count contradicts the figure Amann provided to The Eagle-Tribune in two separate interviews, when he put the total crowd at between 100 and 120. Amann said Tuesday the Sahara’s owners gave him the lower figure.
The club’s license agreement required a firefighter detail when occupancy exceeds 150 people, according to a 2001 letter from then-fire Chief Kenneth Bourassa in the Sahara’s license file. No detail was present Oct. 22.
The license agreement, in place since 1995, also required a valet to manage parking in the residential neighborhood. No valet was working Oct. 22 and Lebbos family members said Tuesday that it would be difficult to hire one.
Fire Capt. Michael Buote said Tuesday that state regulations now require clubs with more than 100 people to have a certified crowd manager. No crowd manager was there Oct. 22, despite several warnings from the Fire Department since 2011. Buote said he would be the crowd manager at the Sahara’s Nov. 27 function, where a crowd was expected.
“I was kind of surprised with how uncooperative everybody was, the patrons that were inside the club,” Solomon said of the scene just after the shooting. “We had a very difficult time controlling people.”
Police and club owners said they do not know who was at the Oct. 22 party because a guest log was not kept. The Licensing Board stressed several times to the club owners that they must keep a legible log of guests and the members who bring them every night.
The club has turned over surveillance video from Oct. 22 and 23 to police.
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