The shooting death of a hip-hop promoter outside a Winston-Salem strip club has sent shockwaves through the community. Friends of the slain promoter want the club to show more respect for a colleague before moving on with business as usual.

Nothing about the night of Tuesday, May 23 at Paper Moon Gentlemen’s Club in Winston-Salem suggested it would end in tragedy, said Cedric Duke, who was working security.

From his experience working security at nightclubs and adult establishments, Duke said it’s rare that he encounters a lot of trouble, but usually there’s at least one minor incident: Someone accidentally spills a drink and another patron gets upset. A minor misunderstanding quickly resolved. But on May 23 at Paper Moon there were no fights, no incidents of any kind.

Duke and Eric Pegues, the promoter, had plans to feed homeless people the next afternoon.

“Don’t forget, we’re gonna feed tomorrow,” Duke admonished his friend. “Don’t get too turned up.”

“Don’t worry,” the 41-year-old Pegues responded. “We’re gonna be there.”

Around closing time, according to a police report, Pegues was shot multiple times as he stood in the parking lot near the entrance to the club. Pegues was rushed to Forsyth Medical Center in a private vehicle, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Working with the US Marshals Service, Winston-Salem police arrested 40-year-old Sierras Cobb in Greensboro at about 8 a.m. on Sunday, charging him with murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Police have said there is no evidence to indicate the shooting was preceded by any type of altercation or argument.

Eric Pegues straddled the worlds of entertainment and activism.
Eric Pegues straddled the worlds of entertainment and activism. (courtesy photo)

A promoter to the end, Pegues had the poster for the event — billed as “X-rated Tuesdays,” hosted by Slim City and with music by DJ Ern, and $2 drink specials all night — posted as his Facebook profile picture when he died.

Known for promoting some of the biggest hip-hop shows in Winston-Salem, providing economic opportunities to young, black people in poor parts of the city, and his philanthropy and activism, Pegues’ death sent immediate shockwaves through Winston-Salem.

“I’d like for people to know that he was a giver,” said James Huff, who worked as a promoter with Pegues. “He was always kind-hearted. If he could feed the homeless, he would. He never cursed. He was truly a good guy. I ain’t met too many like him. He was truly a role model to the whole city.”

Pegues volunteered at a community center operated by Artemus “Poppa” Peterson, where young people could come to get help with their homework, and could take home food and clothing, if they needed it. Peterson came to respect Pegues’ ability to put on a successful concert.

“He went above and beyond,” Peterson said. “You don’t know the headaches. It has a lot to do with your heart. How can you control the masses? Ain’t never saw someone could control the door and the club. He was universal.”

Pegues brought Snoop Dogg, Kevin Gates, Future and Lil’ Boosie to Ziggy’s, a Winston-Salem music venue that closed in February, while providing opportunities for local hip-hop acts to share the stage with artists of national stature.

“It was special to see major artists come to Winston-Salem,” said Lawrence Banner, a hip-hop artist and producer who operates SneekyVill Recordz/100 Mad South. “Most of the time they go to Greensboro. Our economy needs a boost, especially the black part of Winston-Salem. A lot of younger artists could get a lot of hope. If they had the right business moves they could get a lot of opportunity from opening for one of these national artists. I hear from a lot of people he was the fairest promoter around here.”

Brad McCauley, a former co-owner of Ziggy’s who worked with Pegues, posted on his Facebook page on the morning of May 25: “Very few people have made the impact on my life that this man has. He was way more than a friend to me. My children loved him so dearly, as well as anyone else that met him. He was the best of all of us, and I will miss him every day.”

On Sunday evening, Duke said, upwards of 300 people marched through the streets of Winston-Salem to honor Pegues and celebrate his birthday.

Along with conducting drives to collect turkeys for families during the holidays and finding prom dresses for high school girls, Pegues also organized a protest against racial profiling with Peterson in the aftermath of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The protest took place on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive near Walkertown Road.

Pegues told Triad City Beat at the time that young, black people in Winston-Salem often feel harassed by the police.

“The ‘jump-out guys,’ that’s what we call them on the street — I think they’re the gang unit — they pulled over three African-American males,” he said. “It turns out the kids were going to Winston-Salem State University. Why did you pull them over? They said, ‘We saw you pull out of the parking lot.’ It was this shopping center right over here. They pulled them out of the car and had the drug dog sniffing it. Everybody who saw that thinks they must have been doing something wrong, even though they weren’t.

“We get the most speeding tickets,” he added. “It’s like they sit and wait for us. You don’t have to be doing anything wrong.”

In the days after Pegues’ death, friends created a makeshift memorial at the entrance of Paper Moon. An oversized, silver heart-shaped balloon was inscribed with a Sharpie: “RIP ‘E’ — What the freak?” Flowers with cards and votive candles rounded out the memorial.

A memorial for Pegues was removed by staff at Paper Moon. (photo by Jordan Green)
A memorial for Pegues was removed by staff at Paper Moon. (photo by Jordan Green)

By the evening of Friday, May 27, the memorial had been removed. Cedric Duke, who had been working security on the night of Pegues’ death, learned about the development when he received a phone call from Pegues’ brother. Duke took offense that the club was open for business, and trying to brush Pegues’ death aside.

“Who can be that heartless to open your doors after Eric Pegues help put money in your pockets?” Duke wrote in a Facebook post that was shared more than 50 times. “What happened Tuesday night will forever live in our hearts and minds for life. People are so cold-hearted in this world today. People want to eat off your plate even in death. Two and a half days you back open as if nothing happen…. We come together when the police do injustice. We need to come together when these clubs do the same thing. Eric Pegues’ parties help people eat, drink and gave jobs to men and women; also he gave back to the city of Winston-Salem. He stood tall for people that the world made small. Let’s do the same for him. His mother is without her son today, and this is how you show her and the family no respect.”

A phone message left for the management at Paper Moon on May 27 by Triad City Beat was not returned.

Duke and others converged at Paper Moon that evening and held a protest across the street from the club demanding justice for Pegues. He said the management called in a complaint to the police, and the police told them that considering that they didn’t have a permit they would be limited to no more than 25 people. Duke said the limit is fine; Pegues’s supporters plan to keep protesting, and Duke said they would come in shifts.

Noting that this is not the first fatal shooting at Paper Moon — according to reporting in the Winston-Salem Journal, a man was killed during a robbery in 2007 — Duke said the club needs to tighten up its security, including placing a security camera in the front parking lot and hiring off-duty police officers. But the main point is that Pegues, as someone who helped the club build its business, deserves respect, Duke said.

The apparent indifference of the club management to the death of one of their business associates and unwillingness to invest more in security sends a message of profit before people, he added.

“We just keep protesting to do what’s right: Get better security, get the police there, get cameras in the parking lot,” Duke said. “You got cameras where you count the money. You have no cameras in the front. You got a camera on the drawer. You got a camera on the bar. Run a better business. Treat people right that you’ve been working with. You’ve been having too many shootings. Be respectful. Show love. If it was the owner’s son or daughter we would be the same way. We would be wanting to put flowers up there. When we get there, the flowers are gone? If you took it down and took it to his mama, that’s one thing. People gave cards, people put out candles. The main thing is show respect.”