Events center with checkered past closing down

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – The North Austin Event Center is a popular hangout for kids and a party place for families. But recently it was the scene of tragedy.

An argument in the parking lot led to a man being run over and killed. A murder warrant is still out for the driver.

A KXAN Investigation found the center has a crime-ridden history since it opened three years ago.

After the death of Lazaro Rodriquez in November, and since KXAN’s investigation started, event center director Ricardo Ramirez said he’s been trying to make the center a safer place by installing more lights in the parking lot.

On the night Rodriquez died, the owner said the only camera on site was broken. He is now planning to add more that actually work.

But neighbors near the center say that might not be enough.

“The music is outrageous,” said Joann Daman. “The screaming, the hollering. It’s out of control.” She has lived in the neighborhood next to where the building is her whole life.

When the North Austin Events Center moved in three years ago, she says so did the trouble. She said the problems sometimes spill into the parking lot and even onto her street late into the night.

“They’re so drunk they can’t walk,” Daman said. “We’ve had them walk up to our house and try to get in thinking that they’re at home.

“There’s too much crazy stuff happening. All this traffic…they literally take control of the entire street when events happen.”

The center is a popular spot for concerts, gun shows and quinceaneras. Police say it’s not all bad, when people follow the rules.

Police know the event center well. They have responded to their parking lot more than 50 times this year and more than 100 times since it opened. Calls ranged from prostitution to drugs to kidnapping.

“You get assaults, public intoxications, disturbances, burglaries of vehicles when there are 150 or 200 cars in the parking lot,” said Lt. Ed Peek with the Austin Police Department.

Police say there are at least two off-duty officers at each event in addition to private security.

“I know we have issues with the area when we have events, but we try to address them whenever we can,” Peek said.

Some regulars say this place needs even more protection.

“There were gang-fights,” said Javier Vega-Fuentes. “Last time I was there I saw a dude get hit by a bat.”

Ramirez would not go on camera when we went to his office to speak with him, but said he’s closing up shop at the end of the year because of money problems.

His landlord didn’t return calls to talk about any security changes.

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