The owner of a purported teen club that was shut down after a fatal shooting last month has been charged with a felony because he lied to authorities to get a business license, police said.
Patrick T. Walton faces one count of giving a false statement in a government matter, according to a warrant application filed earlier this month.
The charge was filed after an investigation determined that Walton misled officials with the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department about the type of business he intended to open, Richmond County sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Elim said. Walton was arrested Feb. 8 and released on $4,600 bond the same day, sheriff’s officials said.
According to the warrant application, Walton told Fire Inspector Lt. Michael Beckham that he needed a building inspection at 3200 Mike Padgett Highway to obtain a business occupation license from the city. Walton told Beckham that he would be operating a mercantile business, not a teen club that became known as Magic City.
The building, previously used as a bakery outlet, was inspected Sept. 8 and passed requirements for a mercantile business, the document states.
Fire officials told police that before the inspection, Walton had sought approval to operate a dance club or banquet hall at that location. At the time, fire officials told Walton he would need to submit architectural drawings and make upgrades to the building before it would meet fire code requirements for a place of assembly. Walton said he couldn’t afford to bring the building up to code for a dance club, so he would open the business under mercantile requirements, the warrant application says.
At the time, fire Lt. Jason Beard and Capt. Jack Womack told police they had explained to Walton he would not be able to operate a dance club and to do so would be “reckless and extremely dangerous,” the document states.
Walton submitted an initial application for a dance hall license Aug. 17 with the Augusta License and Inspection Department. After his fire inspection was approved, Walton appeared before Augusta commissioners at a committee meeting Sept. 26 and at a full commission meeting Oct. 4. On both occasions, Walton’s application for a dance hall license was unanimously approved. His dance hall license was granted Oct. 5, and Magic City opened its doors.
On Dec. 16, Walton admitted to then-Fire Inspector Lt. Lenston Harris that he had “lied to Lt. Michael Beckham about his purported business type,” the warrant application states. Walton also said he had “an arrangement” with Womack and then-Fire Chief Howard Willis to allow him to operate as a dance hall. Womack denied to sheriff’s investigators that any such arrangement existed. Walton’s business permits were subsequently revoked, the document states.
Womack said Walton continued to seek permission to operate but was denied.
“He came in and spoke to Chief (Chris) James and asked permission to open back up and the chief told him, ‘No,’” Womack said.
A month later, officials determined that Walton was still operating the dance club when police were called to the location to investigate a shootout in the business parking lot. Kyle Royal, 16, died from a gunshot to the head, and Labrall Smith, 19, was wounded in the leg, according to police documents.
Walton also faces misdemeanor charges for violating several city ordinances for dance halls, teen clubs and curfews, in addition to failing to provide proper security for the Jan. 16 event at Magic City that police say ended in gunfire.