Members of Atlanta's gay community are still in shock over the senseless death of a co-owner of the popular gay club Traxx.
Durand Robinson, 50, (pictured above left) was found lying in the middle of a street with a gunshot wound to the chest in the early morning hours of August 25th. A resident on Hadlock Street on Atlanta's southwest side, called police at 1:23 a.m. to report sounds of a "commotion" followed by gunfire and a car speeding off.
An hour earlier, Robinson had attended a board meeting near midtown with other Traxx Atlanta partners to plan for the upcoming Black Gay Pride Week.
Although Robinson helped organize many gay events over 20 years, he was quick to let anyone know that he wasn't gay.
He often talked about his grown daughter, publicist Wynter Robinson, and the five nieces he helped raise. And Wynter always praised her father for his endless patience in raising the girls.
Although Robinson will be remembered as a peaceful and gentle man, a history of violence permeates the Traxx Atlanta firm that he was a partner of. Out of the 5 original partners of Traxx Atlanta, 3 have met violent deaths.
In the early 90s the Warehouse on Marietta street in downtown Atlanta was a popular Saturday night destination for thousands of young gay men (and a few lesbians) looking for a night of fun and adventure.
In those days the club was managed by David Hampton, a warm and personable 20-something college grad, who brought in close friends Phillip Boone (pictured above right) and Durand Robinson to help him run it. The Warehouse was owned by James H. Mason, a businessman whose connections to the Atlanta drug underworld ran deep.
Rumors abounded that the cavernous 3-story Warehouse was a front for laundering drug proceeds. It was no secret that one of the Warehouse's silent partners, a money man named Julius Cline, was a notorious cocaine dealer from Detroit.
Cline was a boisterous young man whose loud laugh often signaled his arrival at the nightclub. According to court documents, Cline invested over $100,000 in the Warehouse and other nightclubs he co-owned in Atlanta.
Unlike Mason, Boone and Hampton, who were more reserved and laid back, Cline was a show off who flashed thousands in cash, drove fancy cars and wore expensive platinum and diamond jewelry way before Jay Z and Puffy Combs made "bling" a part of our vernacular.
Cline was the first to die. According to Detroit police, Cline was gunned down on July 25, 1992 during a shootout on a Detroit street. He died of multiple gunshot wounds, and police later classified his murder as drug-related.
The news of Cline's death swept through the Warehouse crowd and left his business partners shaken. But Cline's death barely registered a blip in the Atlanta Journal newspaper.
With their money man dead, Mason, Hampton and Boone tightened their belts and kept the Warehouse doors open despite money problems.
Then in 1993, Mason, along with former Atlanta attorney and judge Fred Tokars, were indicted on numerous racketeering, drug, and money laundering charges.
Tokars had hired another Mason associate, Eddie Lawrence, to murder his wife, Sara because she had uncovered evidence of money laundering that threatened to do in Tokars (and his clients) if the evidence ever saw the light of day.
According to policemag.com -- in addition to the Warehouse, Tokars also helped to establish other trendy black clubs, such as Diamonds and Pearls on Cheshire Bridge Rd. and Deion’s Club 21 (owned in part by former Atlanta Falcons and Braves star Deion Sanders).
According to federal indictments, the bulk of Tokars's clients were drug dealers, and his main services was to help his clients launder drug money.
Sara Tokars was shot to death on Nov. 29, 1992 inside her SUV in full view of her two young boys. Her death made national headlines and altered the livelihoods of many of Tokars and Mason's associates.
Although Mason had nothing to do with Sara's murder, he found himself caught up in the wide net cast by the Feds who followed the drug money. Mason was later convicted and sentenced to roughly 16 years of hard time in a federal prison.
With Mason gone, the club's liquor license was transferred into Phillip Boone's name since he had a clean record (Durand, who also had a clean record, was not yet a partner in the Traxx firm).
That year Hampton and Boone became the owners of the Warehouse, which they officially renamed Traxx. Both men bristled at speculation that Traxx was still in the drug business. Together they worked hard to make Traxx a legitimate, respectable operation.
While the always cordial Boone greeted patrons at the front door of the expansive nightclub, Hampton stayed out of sight crunching the numbers in the back office. There were signs that Hampton was under heavy stress due to the financial strain brought on by the loss of the club's money men.
Even though the drug rumors persisted, there were never any indications that Hampton or Boone were anything other than the honest, pleasant, polite businessmen that they appeared to be.
Still, Hampton's violent death in late 1998 came as a shock to the gay community.
According to Atlanta police, Hampton burned to death in the back seat of his charred SUV which was found parked in a cemetary in broad daylight. He had been shot once and beaten so badly that both of his legs were broken.
The coroner's report noted evidence of smoke inhalation in Hampton's lungs, meaning he was still alive when his killer (or killers) poured a flammable liquid all over him and set him on fire.
Following Hampton's tragic death, Boone became the sole owner of Traxx. He then made Durand Robinson, and two other men, managing partners in the Traxx firm.
Hampton's untimely death -- which remains unsolved -- was just as mysterious back then as Durand's death is today. Durand was everything that his friends say he was: outgoing, overly friendly, always easy to smile -- but so was David.
Ask anyone who knew David Hampton what kind of man he was, and the accolades pour forth.
"Who would want to kill David?," we asked in 1998. "Who would want to kill Durand?," his friends ask each other today.