Sky Armory employee shoots guests; clothing retailer Destiny USA’s gala cancelled, police say

Update at 1 p.m. Sunday: Sky Armory Dishwasher shot man multiple times in attempt to kill him, police say –

Update at 11:45 p.m.: Syracuse police say the charge of reckless endangerment against Damian Tatum has been upgraded to attempted murder. Tatum is expected to be arraigned in Syracuse City Court on Sunday. He remains in jail without bail tonight.

Syracuse, NY — Final preparations were underway for a Saturday night gala at the Sky Armory when an employee became agitated when he found out who was coming, organizers said.

Damian Tatum, a dishwasher at Sky Armory, was so upset that witnesses said he pulled out a gun and shot a group of guests about an hour before the event was to start, the doorman said -Syracuse police spokesman, Lt. Matthew Malinowski.

No one was hit by the gunfire and Tatum surrendered to police.

More than 300 guests were expected for Syracuse native Jamel Newsome’s “Mastermind Gala Round 2.” Instead, the gala was quickly canceled.

Newsome owns Mastermind, an urban streetwear retailer, with two locations in Syracuse: the first at 613 N. Salina St. and another it opened last summer on the second floor of Destiny USA. Newsome, his agent and their decorator arrived before the gala, which was scheduled from 8 p.m. to midnight.

“It looked like Damian got agitated when he knew who was going to be in the room,” Sky Armory co-owner Nicole Samolis said. “We don’t know what happened.”

It was shortly before 6:50 p.m. when Tatum became agitated, Samolis and police said.

Samolis said her husband, who also owns Sky Armory, and a head of Sky Armory were in the room at the time and tried to calm Tatum down.

But Tatum was distraught and fired his gun, police and witnesses said.

“Unfortunately we had an isolated incident before an event started,” Samolis said.

Witnesses called 911 and told dispatchers that Sky Armory’s dishwasher fired three or four shots at guests inside the building at 351 S. Clinton St.

Initially, in the chaos, someone thought a man had been shot, but Malinowski and Samolis said no one had been shot.

After the gunshots, one of the guests tripped and fell in the ballroom and injured his right leg, but he was not shot, they said. Newsome later confirmed that it was his agent, Daniel Baldwin, 32, of Syracuse, who tripped and dislocated his knee.

Newsome confirmed he was in the room when shots were fired, but said he did not know the shooter.

Tatum, 28, of Syracuse, surrendered to police outside the building in Sky Armory alley near South Clinton and Walton streets, Malinowski said. Officers arrested Tatum and charged him with first-degree reckless endangerment, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, and criminal possession of a firearm. Hours later, police said the charge of reckless endangerment had been upgraded to attempted murder.

“He was a dishwasher here, but he violated one of our company policies to have a gun in the workplace,” Samolis said. “He will be fired.

The owners of Sky Armory are providing support for other employees and will pay anyone who was scheduled to work Saturday night even if the event did not take place, Samolis said. About 15 employees were expected to work at the gala, she said.

“We always take the safety of our employees and our guests seriously,” Samolis said.

After the shootings, Sky Armory employees in the building — including bartenders, cooks, housekeepers and event managers — gathered on the first floor of the building, Samolis said. They made sure everyone was safe and said the police arrived quickly.

“We’ve done hundreds of events and this is the first time something like this has happened,” Samolis said. “We are very sad about this and also thank the community for their support.”

Sky Armory’s corporate mission is to help end poverty in the Syracuse community, and the owners said they chose to hire people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We work with them and try to lift people out of poverty through employment, and we’re still committed to that,” Samolis said.

Sky Armory owners said they plan to speak with the event organizer to see if they want to postpone or cancel altogether.

The Mastermind Gala advertised online as “Upstate New York’s event of the year.” Guests paid between $49 and $100 and vendors paid between $250 and $350 to attend. The gala was to include five-star chefs and entertainment by four upstate New York disc jockeys on two floors of the Sky Armory, according to the event description.

Sky Armory owners and Syracuse police say the public is not in danger.

“This was an isolated incident on the third floor of the facility,” Malinowski said.

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Anne G. Cash