The Rev. Patrick Lockett was standing before his congregation on Sunday when he heard the news that Walter Ashley Jr. had been shot to death early that morning, only a matter of yards away from New Community Baptist Church.

The Rev. Patrick Lockett was standing before his congregation on Sunday when he heard the news that Walter Ashley Jr. had been shot to death early that morning, only a matter of yards away from New Community Baptist Church.

“Shocking, very shocking,” Lockett said. “The news came to me while I was in the pulpit, and just the look on my face told the people that something was wrong.”

Less than 24 hours before, the pee-wee football team Lockett and Ashley had coached together for four years won the state Super Bowl with a shutout victory.

At 4:27 a.m., Ashley was pronounced dead of a gunshot wound to the upper body outside the Three Gables nightclub, the victim of what police are describing as a shooting after a fight that Ashley had nothing to do with. The incident left three other people wounded.

Lockett said his initial reaction was sadness, but as the day wore on, that sadness turned into a resolve to do something.

“I believe it’s the final straw because it hits close to home — someone I actually know,” Lockett said. “And I believe that now is the opportunity for me to help pull together the ones that we need to pull together to help close this.”

Lockett contacted other Pine Bluff pastors, and together with Interested Citizens for Voter Registration Inc., they hope to see the Three Gables shut down and the hours of operation for all Pine Bluff nightclubs shortened.

Currently, some nightclubs with a certain permit can stay open as late as 5:30 a.m. The hours were set by an ordinance passed in June 2010 by the Pine Bluff City Council. Previously, clubs had to close by 3:30 a.m.

Lockett said that he would prefer the clubs close by a time like 1 a.m.

The Rev. Jesse Turner, executive director of ICVR, agreed that the Three Gables needs to close and that nightclub hours need to be shortened.

“The Three Gables have actually become a war zone over there, with all the violence and stabbings and killings that have gone on there,” Turner said. “So we hope the council will take a strong look at it.”

Turner said he hopes to have a group together who can attend the council meeting on Monday, Nov. 21, to speak on the matter.

Alderwoman Irene Holcomb, senior council member and chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee, said that in light of recent events, the ordinance warrants review.

“I think we should have a little coalition between the mayor, the police chief or her designee, the council members and the [Alcoholic Beverage Control Board] to revisit the situation because it is very mind-boggling and very disturbing that we have these homicides,” Holcomb said. “We should take a serious look at it. … When we extended the hours that the clubs could serve alcohol, apparently that was a mistake.”

Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. did not return a phone call requesting comment.

Concerning whether the city will have any legal ability to close the nightclub, City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott said Monday that she was still researching whether the city has any options that it could use, should the council chose to do so.

Stacey Knott was listed with the Jefferson County Asessor’s Office as the owner of the Three Gables property. Several numbers listed for her were disconnected when attempted on Monday. Ora L. Fair was listed with ABC as the alcohol permit holder for the club. She was unlisted.

Karen Blagg, a legal secretary with the ABC Administration office, said that the Three Gables is currently under probation concerning its alcohol permit because of two incidents that occurred in September 2010.

On Sept. 19, 2010, a fight inside the club led to a fight outside. During the incident, a man was shot by police in the parking lot after refusing to put down a weapon.

On Sept. 26, 2010, one patron struck another with a beer bottle.

The ABC Board ruled to fine the club $1,000 and put it on probation from Dec. 7, 2010, to Dec. 7, 2011.

No additional recent violations have been recorded with the ABC Board.

While Sunday’s incident is still in the investigation stage, Blagg explained the process. The ABC Enforcement branch will get a copy of the incident report from Pine Bluff police, conduct an investigation and determine if any violations of the state’s alcoholic beverage control laws occurred.

The enforcement officer’s findings will be turned over to the ABC administration, which will determine any fines or other punishments for the club’s alcohol permit-holders.

Factors like the club’s probation status and police reports that at least one minor was inside the club shortly before the incident will be investigated and taken into consideration, Blagg said.

By state law, no minors are allowed in a private club that does not serve food. Blagg said she was not aware of whether the Three Gables serves food, and that will also be part of the investigation.

Pine Bluff Police Department spokesman Lt. Bob Rawlinson said that there have been numerous calls to the Three Gables this year, but is not the only club in Pine Bluff that causes problems.

“This year, there have been over 140 calls there, ranging from burglar alarms to attempted rape, shootings, felons in possession of fire arms, disorderly conduct — all of it,” Rawlinson said.

Rawlinson has heard questions from across the community asking why police couldn’t have done more to prevent Sunday’s homicide.

“There were five security guards inside and two Pine Bluff police officers off duty outside working the parking lot,” Rawlinson said. “It still wasn’t enough. Sometimes, whatever you do, it’s not enough.”

Lockett, Turner and Bishop Shirley Sanders said they believe churches are charged with taking an active role in the community, not just limiting their actions to within the church house. But at the same time, Sanders said, church leaders cannot address the problem of crime in Pine Bluff alone.

“It’s going to take more than clergy,” Sanders said. “It’s going to take people coming from that particular community, and it’s going to take the city getting involved.”

Lockett said that closing down the Three Gables and shortening nightclub hours may not solve the problem, but it’s a start.

“We have to be concerned,” Lockett said. “The next time it happens in your neighborhood, then I should come and help you. When something happens in my neighborhood, then you ought to come help me. If the community sticks together, it’ll better Pine Bluff.”