Suspect in first 'Up or on the Rocks' shooting appears in court - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Suspect in first 'Up or on the Rocks' shooting appears in court

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Michael Cruz Michael Cruz
Brian Simpe Brian Simpe
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

The man accused of killing a teenager outside a popular Hartford nightclub faced a judge for the first time Thursday.

Michael Cruz was formally charged Thursday in the shooting death of 19-year-old Brian Simpe.

Simpe was shot in the chest after an altercation at the club on the corner of Union Place and Allyn Street in August. Sources told Eyewitness News a brewing dispute inside the club between two groups over a young lady boiled over outside after closing time. Simpe, sources said, tried to intervene when he was shot.

"It still hurts me that someone could do something like that to my nephew," said Simpe's uncle Mike Osei.

Simpe was allowed in the club because it was holding a teen night, where teens can go inside but cannot drink alcohol.

Police arrested Cruz, who has six previous arrests in Hartford, poolside while he was on a Disney World vacation in Orlando.

Cruz's attorney Gerry Klein said Cruz was not on the run in Florida, but was on a previously scheduled vacation, and had a round-trip ticket.

Klein added before Cruz left he had heard through a friend that police wanted to question him as a witness to Simpe's shooting.

"My client admits, he will testify, if the case goes to trial that he was there," Klein said. "He was involved in a melee and he was not the one that was armed and fired a shot."

Cruz appeared in Hartford Superior Court on Thursday afternoon in front of a packed courthouse.

Miguel Delgado, 21, was shot outside Up or on the Rocks on Aug. 30, police said. Police said it appears the shooting occurred after a fight over a spilled drink that started inside the nightclub and spilled outside.

On Tuesday, Angel Morales, of New Haven, was the suspected gunman. Morales was charged with murder and criminal possession of a firearm.

This decision all has to do with a meeting Tuesday with Rovella, the state liquor commission and the owner of Up or on the Rocks.

Up or on the Rocks was shut down on Aug. 30 and remains closed at this point.

Police have instituted a mandatory ordinance where the nightclub owner would have to hire police officers to work on certain nights. The owner is not sure if he will hire the officers and may decide to close, according to police.

Sources told Eyewitness News the night of the latest shooting there were roughly a dozen security people inside the club and nine police within earshot of the shooting outside.

Police said in both instances the club was hosting an underage night.

Right now, there are laws allowing 18 and over nights, but the mayor will be talking with state officials to see if those laws could be changed.

Cruz is due back in court on October. The arrest warrant on this case remains sealed.

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