Details emerge in the shooting death of a rapper at Lazy Gators in Lake of the Ozarks

Joyce Miller

One person remains in custody as a person of interest while authorities continue to investigate a shooting that killed a rapper from Jefferson City at a crowded Lake of the Ozarks bar Saturday.

Killed in the shooting was 27-year-old Vonza Watson, who went by the stage name VNZA. Watson grew up in Michigan and Jefferson City. He had most recently been living in the Kansas City area, according to the Kansas City Star.

Camden County Sheriff Tony Helms said the suspect in custody was arrested shortly after the shooting on drug-related charges.

Helms said although a clear motive has not been established, he believes the shooting may have been related to possible gang activity in Jefferson City.

“We are still looking into that,” he said. “What I do believe the public should know is that we believe this is an isolated incident between a small group of people.”

Jefferson City is about an hour from Lazy Gators, where the shooting occurred.

According to a bio on his website, Watson had a number of recordings and had performed in venues in Columbia, St. Louis and Detroit.

Investigators review video in VNZA shooting

Saturday's shooting was reported around 10:45 p.m. near the pool bar at Lazy Gators, which was crowded because of the Memorial Day holiday. Watson was shot in the chest and died after being transported to the hospital.

At one point, two other people were in custody in connection with the case. They were released after questioning, Helms said.

Investigators have not been able to locate the weapon used in the shooting, a 9mm handgun, Helms said.

Helms said there didn't "appear to be much of an altercation" at Lazy Gators, which is located at the 7-mile marker by water and on Sweet William Road by land.

In video from the business, Helms said, investigators "are able to see the gun flash, we see the group scatter after the gun flash."

Authorities looking for public's help

Complicating the investigation is the chaos that followed the shooting.

Helms said a mass of people were trying to get away after the shooting and hundreds of bar-goers were walking to get to parking lots and shuttles. Emergency response vehicles and law enforcement were forced to make their way through a traffic jam.

"We are dealing with a crime scene that 2,000 people have trampled," Helms said.

The bar had previously hired two deputies to add to its security staff. Because of that, the response time was minimal, Helms said.

He said investigators have extra help, but they could use the public's assistance.

“What we need now is as much help as we can get from anyone who took video, photos, anything they might have on their phones,” Helms said.

Anyone with information can call the sheriff's office at  (573) 346-2243 . Tips can be left anonymously.

"We understand that people might not want to get involved," Helms said. "If they report information anonymously, we will follow it up.”