Man charged in Purple Crackle shooting

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Romell D. Watkins, 24, of Mounds, Ill., was charged Monday in Alexander County, Ill., in connection with a shooting early Saturday morning at the Purple Crackle bar in East Cape Girardeau, Ill. Watkins faces two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm and two counts of aggravated discharge of a gun.

Bar bouncer Lawrence R. Sparks, 28, told investigators he heard a bang inside the bathroom, went inside and found Watkins "acting weird," according to a probable-cause statement written by Illinois trooper James Wright. When Sparks asked him what was wrong, Watkins began to walk away in a stumbling manner. Sparks grabbed Watkins' arm to guide him out of the bar and placed his other hand on Watkin's waist, where he felt a gun.

A struggle ensued and the gun went off again. The shot narrowly missed Sparks' head, he told police. Sparks pinned Watkins to the ground, got the weapon away from him and handcuffed him. Bar staff later gave the 9mm handgun to police.

Two men were injured in the first firing. Willis R. Freeman, 46, was struck in the neck and James E. Moore, 38, was struck in the abdomen. Freeman and Moore were taken to St. Francis Medical Center and were treated and released later Saturday, the police said.

At least two people told police they felt a bullet graze them, but they did not report being otherwise injured.

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