Knaps: Baker Police tried to stop party the day before shooting

Baker Police Chief Mike Knaps said Wednesday that his agency tried to stop the March 28 party during which three teens were shot and killed. Knaps said his agency approached a Baker Civic Club official the day before the event but was assured by the club that the event was a birthday party and there would be no problems.

Knaps’ comments came during an impromptu news conference. He said later in the day that one of his detectives called a former Baker Civic Club board member to voice the Police Department’s concerns about the party.

However, the president and building manager of the Baker Civic Club, Hazel Mitchell, said Wednesday that no one from the Police Department had called her in an attempt to halt the party.

“No one contacted me before the party,” Mitchell said. “They called me at 11:45 p.m. Friday to tell me there had been a shooting there.”

Mitchell acknowledged the department called someone who was no longer affiliated with Baker Civic Club but said police didn’t talk to her.

Mitchell said she feels as if Knaps is throwing the Baker Civic Club under the bus.

“If they were that worried about the party and they were that concerned, why didn’t they have any patrols there at the event?” Mitchell questioned.

Knaps talked about trying to stop the party at a news conference in the lobby of Baker City Hall.

Baker City Councilwoman Joyce Burges had originally called a special City Council meeting for 10 a.m. to discuss the fatal shooting that claimed the lives of Marcell Franklin, 15; Kendal Dorsey, 15; and Diontrey Claiborne, 18.

Shooting victim Javaughn Simmons, 19, survived and was hospitalized.

The special council meeting had to be canceled when only two of the council’s five members showed up — not enough present for a quorum.

Burges then asked audience members and the media to go into the lobby for a news conference.

Following some remarks from Burges, Knaps was asked for an update on the status of the investigation.

Knaps said his detectives were still trying to determine a motive for the shooting. He said they had interviewed up to 60 witnesses so far and were still talking to other witnesses.

Baker police arrested accused shooter Nakeydran L. Williams, 16, on Saturday and booked him with three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder and one count of illegal use of a weapon.

Neither police nor prosecutors have released any background information about Williams, including his address or if he has a criminal background.

Knaps told the media Wednesday that police had “a bad feeling” about the party and that’s why they tried to stop it.

“I’ve been a police officer for 33 years. It just didn’t look good,” Knaps said when asked to elaborate on his bad feeling about the party.

Mitchell, who was not at Wednesday’s news conference, said later that one Baker Police officer called a former member of the Baker Civic Club and told the former member that the police had concerns about the party because of the fliers circulating before the event.

Mitchell said she told the former board member to advise police to call her if they had any questions or concerns about the party but said no one ever did.

Knaps said his officer called former board member Janet Mosley.

The officer who made the call, Capt. Darryl Rainwater, told Knaps that Mosley had said she would let Mitchell know about the department’s concerns.

According to Rainwater’s account, Mosley told him that “Mitchell stated she already had a signed contract for a sweet 16 birthday party and that the person’s mother was supposed to be coming home from Afghanistan to attend the party.”

Rainwater also said Mosley reported that Mitchell “was aware of the flier being circulated around because she saw it on social media” but that the signed contract for use of the building was for a birthday party.

Rainwater then told Mosley he and Knaps still had concerns of the party going forward. Rainwater said the former board member told him Mitchell said police could shut the party down if they received complaints.

Mitchell said Wednesday that the signed contract for the party did not mention anything about selling tickets at the door for admission and that she didn’t have the right to shut the party down because the facility was under contract.

When asked why the police didn’t call Mitchell or anyone currently affiliated with the Baker Civic Club directly, Knaps said in an email that it didn’t matter.

“Ms. Mitchell knew that we had an issue with the flier and potential issues with improper security for the party,” Knaps wrote.

“Even though it came from Mrs. Mosley who has a long affiliation with the property, Ms. Mitchell’s remark to shut it down if we received a complaint and call her and make her aware if that happened made the officer believe that proper notification had taken place.”

Burges said at Wednesday’s news conference she has talked to city officials about possibly instituting a curfew to help curb violence. She also said Knaps and Baker Mayor Harold Rideau are the only ones authorized to install a curfew in Baker.

Knaps said a curfew is something that he will investigate, but it’s unlikely that a curfew would be instituted right away.

There will be a candlelight memorial in Baker City Park at 7 p.m. Thursday to honor the shooting victims.

Williams is due back in juvenile court April 14 for a detention hearing.