Erik Postell Held for Grand Jury Investigation in Nightclub Shooting Death of Paul Tanoh Danzo

Judge Lynn Leibovitz found substantial probability Friday in the case against Erik Postell.

Postell, 24, is suspected of first-degree murder while armed in connection with the shooting death of 24-year-old Paul Aime Tanoh-Danzo. On March 21, around 2:50 a.m., police found Danzo in the driver’s seat of a car outside of Balletto nightclub in Northwest DC. He was suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the body and head and was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Michael Smith, a co-defendant in the case, pleaded guilty Wednesday to fleeing law enforcement, acting as an accessory after the fact to an assault with intent to kill, and one other weapon charge.

Leibovitz said she found the strong testimonies from eyewitnesses and the distinct differences in appearance between 5-foot-10-inch Postell and 6-foot-5-inch Michael Smith to be enough evidence to hold Postell while a grand jury investigates. Because of Smith and Postell’s significant difference in height and hairstyle, Leibovitz said it would be difficult for Postell’s defense to try to argue Smith was in fact the shooter.

During the preliminary hearing, MPD detective Ray Shields said authorities recovered a Gucci-style belt from Postell’s grandmother’s home, which appeared to be the same belt Postell was wearing the night of the shooting. According to Shields, a club photographer had taken a photo of Postell and a group of other people posing inside the nightclub, and in the photo, Postell is seen wearing the belt.

Shields said at least six .45 caliber shell casings were recovered from the scene of the shooting, which later matched a .45 pistol recovered from the 1100 block of 15th Street Northwest. Shields believed the handgun was thrown out the car window at 15th Street Northwest when Secret Service was chasing the fleeing black BMW carrying Postell and Smith.

Postell is scheduled for a felony status conference with Judge Leibovitz on Jan. 3.

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