Family of man killed in Oakdale Theatre shooting in Wallingford sues venue, rapper

Matthew Zabierek
May 23, 2017

WALLINGFORD—The family of a man shot and killed outside the Oakdale Theatre in December is suing because they believe the venue should have provided more security the night of the shooting.

Travis Ward, 31, and Jacquan Graves, 20, both of New Haven, were killed in the shooting and two others, including 25-year-old Nathan Mitchell, of Hartford, were wounded.

Lawyers for Ward’s family and Mitchell filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Waterbury Superior Court accusing the Oakdale of failing to “take reasonable measures to protect patrons” and hire “adequate security presence” the night of the shooting.

An Oakdale representative could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The shooting took place following a concert by rapper Meek Mill on Dec. 30, 2016. Police have not identified any suspects, and no arrests have been made. The case remains under investigation.

The Oakdale requested a police presence on the night of shooting three hours before the concert, but no officers were available on short notice on a holiday weekend, police have said. The theater did not normally hire police for events prior to the concert, according to police.

Joel Faxon, a New Haven attorney representing Ward’s mother, said Oakdale should have been more proactive in providing security that night.

“Had they provided proper event security, the shooting likely never would have occurred. Nobody would have been killed and no one would have been injured,” Joel Faxon told the Record-Journal. “They’re collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in ticket sales. A portion of that should have gone to adding security.”

Faxon argued that, given past incidents at Meek Mill concerts, Oakdale should have taken more security measures.

Four people were shot at a Meek Mill concert in 2013 in Wilmington, Delaware, according to media reports. At a 2011 Meek Mill concert in Danbury, four people were arrested for disorderly conduct and two people were hospitalized for minor injuries.

“It was extraordinarily clear to us that given the prior history of violence at Meek Mill’s concerts, the security was completely inadequate,” Faxon said.

The news of the lawsuit was first reported Tuesday by the Hartford Courant.

The lawsuit also names the rapper as a defendant, claiming that his song lyrics incite violence among concertgoers.

“With song titles like ‘Body Count’ and ‘Ooh kill ’em,’ that praise indiscriminate killing and mayhem, the potential for tragic incidents like this should have been properly anticipated and planned for by Meek Mill, his concert promoters and the Oakdale Theatre,” Faxon said Tuesday.

Emergency dispatch recordings from the night of the shooting indicate that police encountered several challenges in responding to the shooting.

“There’s cars everywhere, people everywhere and we don’t even know how many victims we got,” an officer said about 20 minutes after police were first called.

Police Chief William Wright has said the police response to the shooting was complex because officers were trying to enter the Oakdale Theatre grounds while concertgoers were trying to leave.

In the weeks after the shooting, Oakdale officials met with police to discuss security measures for future events.

“If we can help, we’re more than happy to do so,” Wright said in January.

The Oakdale made “a number of security improvements” following the shooting, Wright said. He declined to comment further, saying Live Nation, which operates the theater, should detail those changes. Representatives from Live Nation haven’t responded to multiple requests for comment in recent months.