The blood-spattered foursome headed straight for the sinks at South Nevada Avenue's Cheyenne Motel, and began scrubbing off the evidence.
Little did they know they had come to the wrong place.
The Cheyenne was crawling with undercover cops the night of June 19, and the four soapy suspects were promptly arrested on charges that they stabbed two transients at an urban campsite.
Lately, police have been spending more time than usual at the Cheyenne. They raided the place on the night of July 10, arresting nine people, including motel manager Billy Holland, who was taken in for distribution of marijuana. Others were arrested for a variety of charges, including five felonies.
As reported by the Independent in several stories over the past few months, police have long had a problem with the South Nevada area in general, and the Cheyenne Motel in particular. Police Detective Olav Chaney, who has led efforts to combat crime there, notes that during a months-long crackdown (which concluded with the raid) undercover cops observed plenty of crime. They were even approached by drug dealers, peddling their wares.
Now, police say, they're more than ready to do something about it.
"We've tried and tried and tried working with them," Chaney says of the motel's management.
In fact, police may soon pursue legal action against the motel's absentee owner. Back on May 15, we reported the city had initiated a public-nuisance case against the motel. That case is moving steadily along, with crime data going to city prosecutor Scott Patlin.
For the city to win a nuisance case, it must prove the motel violated two provisions of the nuisance ordinance, such as the presence of prostitution, illegal weapons, selling liquor to a minor, selling liquor without a license, gang-related crimes, drive-by crimes and assault. If the motel owner is convicted, the motel could be seized by the city for up to a year.
Police will go to City Council on Aug. 11 to discuss ways to strengthen the nuisance ordinance, making it easier to prosecute businesses when criminal activity is rampant. (From Jan. 1, 2006, to April 20, 2008, police responded to 526 calls for service at the Cheyenne.)
The city is using other tools to pressure the motel. Inspections have uncovered multiple code enforcement and fire code violations, leading to condemnation of three rooms at the motel. More problems will need to be fixed if the motel is to remain operational.
"The same process for condemning a room could be used to condemn the whole structure," Patlin notes.
Ken Brown, franchiser of the Taste of Philly restaurant chain and lessee of the Cheyenne, told the Independent in May he feels picked on for problems that are inevitable in any establishment that rents to the poor. He says the motel kept many from being homeless, but he thinks the Cheyenne will close soon. Frankly, he says, he's tired of shelling out money and energy to keep it open.
"The city's going to win," he says. "They're just going to put so much pressure on me."
Chaney says the Cheyenne is a crime hot spot, but South Nevada's problems certainly aren't limited to the motel. In one day, he says, police made 15 arrests in the area's Dorchester Park, where William "Billy" Wilson was allegedly bludgeoned to death last week by another transient. Chaney also notes three prostitutes have been arrested in the South Nevada area this year, along with ongoing problems with aggressive panhandling, drunks wandering onto private property, littering and graffiti.
The city and South Nevada Merchants Association (concerned area business owners) are looking at a way to cut crime in the area. City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher says he's actively looking for donations to pay for beat cops this summer.
He'll need between $6,500 to $9,000 to hire officers to patrol the area during peak hours for crime. They will be hired for August, and perhaps the end of July. After that, the city, police and merchants plan to evaluate the extra policing and consider options to hire beat cops permanently. No city funds will be used.