NEAR WEST SIDE — The unsolved murder of a 33-year-old man outside a popular nightclub owned by a former NBA player over the weekend started when the victim tried to help a woman who was punched in the club, the victim's family said.
Mauriaze W. Cossom, the father of 7-year-old girl, was shot dead outside Bobby Simmons' Society 2201 club at 3 a.m. Sunday.
But the incident started inside, Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said.
"They say some people from that club got into it. They were all folks that didn't live in the neighborhood," Burnett said. "I think they may have allowed somebody to have an event there that caused rough characters to come."
Cossom's mother said she heard her son had come to the aid of a woman who had been punched by her boyfriend. He intervened, Brenda Cossom said, and a fight started.
"My son was trying to stop it," she said. "They had words."
A Society employee who answered the phone at the club at 2201 Walnut St. this week declined to comment.
Simmons, a former DePaul star who went on to the NBA, could not be reached for comment.
Police couldn't immediately confirm how the fight started, but said about 3 a.m. Sunday, two men were standing on the sidewalk on Leavitt when someone fired shots at them.
Cossom was hit multiple times in his back and his leg. He was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said. A 34-year-old man was hit in his right leg.
The club occupies a largely industrial area of the Near West Side, but its club's entrance, off the street behind a wrought iron fence at Lake and Leavitt, is about a block from condos on Lake Street in Westhaven. On Tuesday, one nearby neighbor said the shooting alarmed neighbors.
"A stray bullet could cross Lake Street," he said.
A photo from Society 2201's Facebook page shows the venue in July. [Society 2201 Facebook]
On its website, Society 2201, which opened in 2012, bills itself as an "elite venue for special and private events," that is open from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Fridays and 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturdays.
Society does have a tavern liquor license, but not a Public Place of Amusement license, meaning the club shouldn't be charging a cover, according to Burnett. According to reviews on Facebook and Yelp, Society has at times charged a $20 cover.
The city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection could not answer questions about the nightclub's liquor license Monday or Tuesday.
'Life's too short'
Mauriaze Cossom was close with his daughter and other relatives, his mother said.
"My son was a dedicated father, son, brother, cousin who loved his family, and a friend to all of his friends," she said Tuesday.
Mauriaze would go out of his way to help people, especially his mother.
"He loved me. He did anything I asked of him," Brenda said. "If the family had tension, he'd tell them to stop. 'Life's too short.' "
Brenda, who has lost three nephews and now her son to Chicago violence, said she doesn't think shutting down the club will quell shootings.
"These days, you don't have to be in no club. It can happen anywhere," she said.
Society 2201, a venue owned by former NBA player Bobby Simmons, is located at 2201 W. Walnut St. on the Near West Side. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
The area around the club is in what the city calls a "planned manufacturing district," and in 2015, Ben Spies, then-director of economic development at the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago, told DNAinfo that taverns were legally allowed in the area, subject to some size and entertainment restrictions.
"I'm checking to make sure they aren't violating anything," Burnett said.
The club is owned by Simmons, a Chicago native and star forward at Simeon High School in Auburn Gresham. He went on to play college ball at DePaul University before playing a decade in the NBA. Simmons, now a career counselor at the National Basketball Players Association, was inducted into the DePaul University Athletic Hall of Fame this year and was recently honored as a 2017 Man of Excellence by the Chicago Defender.
Burnett said Simmons opened Society 2201, about a half-mile away from the United Center, to give NBA players a place to celebrate after games. In addition to opening Society, Simmons co-owns Succezz, a South Loop clothing store.
"I have all my businesses here — because I want to show kids you don't have to be a basketball player to be successful," Simmons told RedEye in 2013.
Last year, Simmons was called to testify about the night he was robbed of a $200,000 diamond necklace by a member of the ultraviolent Hobos street gang in 2006.
Burnett's office hasn't received complaints about Society in the past, but the veteran alderman said it is concerning whenever a shooting occurs in the ward.
"This is the first time that I know of that anything has ever happened there," Burnett said.
He hopes the shooting won't breed other altercations on the Near West Side.
"It's unfortunate," Burnett said. "Thank God it wasn't anyone from our area, because the first thing I think about is retaliation. Is it going to be a gang war?"
Three bars in Burnett's ward have been forced to close in recent years because of high-profile shootings.
Two shootings near Funky Buddha Lounge in November 2014 prompted the longtime River West bar to close. In one of the incidents, the shooter worked at the bar, authorities allege.
After a shooting in March 2015 and facing pressure from neighbors, Sawtooth, a restaurant and nightclub on Randolph in the West Loop, was forced to close.
In September 2015, police pushed for Red Kiva, a pizza restaurant and nightclub on Randolph, to close after a fatal shooting nearby. Red Kiva has not reopened.
Police crime scene tape is stuffed in a nearby dumpster after a shooting on North Leavitt Street early Sunday. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]
Mauriaze W. Cossom and his mom, Brenda.