Supervisor Vallie Brown listens at a community meeting at the Fillmore Heritage Center on Wednesday, March 26, 2019 following a shooting that occurred in front of the building in which one person died and five people were wounded on March 23. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Deadly shooting puts Fillmore Heritage Center in peril months after reopening

Gunfire outside funeral reception killed one person and injured five others Saturday night

A deadly shooting that killed one and injured five others in the Fillmore has thrust the future of a newly revitalized community center into jeopardy.

The Fillmore Heritage Center, which just months ago reopened in a long-vacant event space, has cancelled all events at least through the end of the month in response to the Saturday night shooting outside its doors.

Supervisor Vallie Brown, who represents the area on the Board of Supervisors, addressed the news late Tuesday at a meeting she called at the center to urge the community to come together after the violence.

“I can’t tell you right now what will happen,” Brown said. “Right now we’ve closed the center and we’re trying to figure out what the next steps are. But all the events at this point are canceled until The City can figure out what the steps are, and we have to go through the process.”

Dozens of community members in attendance expressed outrage over the news and sadness over the shooting.

The center has only been open since November under a six-month lease between The City and two nonprofits, the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation and New Community Leadership Foundation.

Since then, it has hosted a range of events from music to comedy as well as various services for community members.

Rico Hamilton, head of the NCLF, said the shooting had nothing to do with the Fillmore Heritage Center.

“We have done everything we possibly can do to avoid violence,” Hamilton said at the meeting.

Hamilton said he himself ran out of the center to try and help one of the men who was shot.

While the shooting happened at the same time that the center was hosting a funeral reception for local businessman Ron Newt, who has been called a “drug kingpin,” Hamilton said that it was a “random incident.”

“These doors can open tomorrow, these doors can open two weeks from now,” Hamilton said. “I just want you to know that we can’t control what happens out there on the corridor.”

But Charles Powell, president of the West Coast Entertainment Association, who said he founded the movement to reopen the building, pointed fingers at the reception as well as the police.

“You know whose funeral was Saturday,” Powell said at the meeting. “You know who that man was… You know 1,000 people was coming down on the corridor… You should have had the police down here that day.”

Brown said various arms of city government would have to assess whether the center could be run safely before events resumed, including the Entertainment Commission, Mayor’s Office and City Attorney’s Office.

“This is a city building and so we are liable for anything that happens here or around it so it’s going through a lot of the process,” Brown said. “This isn’t a decision that I make on my own, a whole city family is going to have to make this decision on when this building opens, if it does, back up.”

Rev. Amos Brown, the local leader of the NAACP, was among the many to call for the center to remain open.

“It would not be a kind thing for anyone to make a knee-jerk conclusion and put a cloud over this building, a cloud over this African American community,” Brown said at the meeting.

Yolanda Banks Reed, the mother of local celebrity boxer Karim Mayfield, who helped reopen the center, distanced the center from the shooting.

“It happened outside, it didn’t happen inside,” Reed said. “Do not close this place, do not close this building down, do not shut the African American people down. Do not do this once again because the blame is not on us.”

Vallie Brown and Rev. Amos Brown listened to hours of public comment alongside Deputy Chief Ann Mannix, Northern Station Captain Joseph Engler and Joaquin Torres of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Police brass declined to release detailed information about the shooting, citing an open investigation and a pending decision from prosecutors on whether two men arrested in the case would be charged.

But Engler said he has increased foot beats and the presence of motorcycle officers in the area.

Mannix, a former captain of Northern Station, called on the community to work together with the police.

“It’s our community,” Mannix said. “These are our kids who are getting shot, who are shooting each other. This shouldn’t be happening.”

When police responded to the shooting, officers found four men suffering from gunshot wounds outside the center.

Mister Dee Carnell Simmons III, 25, was pronounced dead at the scene while the others were taken to a hospital.

Two other victims, a man and a woman, drove to the hospital. Of the five total victims, only a 27-year-old man suffered injuries considered life-threatening.

Police made two arrests in the case.

Jamare Coats, 26, and Sean Harrison, 25, were arrested after Coats drove Harrison to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

As of Tuesday evening, the duo remained in County Jail on suspicion of murder as well as firearm charges.

Alex Bastian, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors had not yet decided whether to file charges against them.

A charging decision is expected to be made by Wednesday morning.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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