WILKES-BARRE – By all accounts, Michael Onley committed his life to good times, family and music.
As recently as Saturday, Onley was deejaying an event, in which he was not paid, to benefit a cancer patient.
“That’s the type of guy he was, everybody loved him,” said friend and fellow disc jockey DJ Eldorado. “I’ve never seen him have no enemies. That was just not his character at all.”
But in an act of what friends are calling “senseless violence,” Onley was shot in the head and killed at about 12:15 a.m. Sunday near Outsiders Bar at 650 S. Main St.
“I think it was a careless, random act,” Eldorado said of the fatal shooting. “He just happened to be in the crosshairs.”
Police said they do not have any suspects in custody for the homicide, which they are calling an isolated incident, as of Sunday night.
A message left for Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis was not returned Sunday night.
Onley, also known in local music circles as DJ Mo, was not deejaying at Outsiders the night of the shooting. According to his friend Joe Rodano, Onley was promoting events and taking pictures.
Onley leaves behind a fiancee and a 10-year-old son.
According to friends, what makes the shooting so heartbreaking is Onley’s past history of rallying against violence.
More than one year ago, around the time Trayvon Martin was killed, Onley’s brother, Anthony, died as a bystander in a South Carolina shooting.
“He was a big advocate against drugs and violence and he held functions here on (Public Square) to promote it,” said friend Joe Rodano.
In April 2012, to protest authorities’ reluctance to charge George Zimmerman with Martin’s death, Onley used social media to attract dozens of locals to march from Kirby Park to Public Square in hooded sweatshirts, much like what Martin was wearing when he was killed. Days later, Onley took part in a candlelight vigil in Public Square.
“He’s been in this area for a long time and he stood for everything that was right,” Rodano said. “That’s why he was respected by everybody.”
After graduating from Coughlin High School, Onley attended Wilkes University, which is where he began to climb up the ranks in the local music scene.
When Onley arrived on campus more than a decade ago, the programming on WCLH 90.7 FM – the school’s radio station – was lacking. At the time, the station played mostly alternative music, with the exception of “Metal Monday.”
However, Onley made hip-hop a staple on WCLH by starting a hip-hop show broadcasted every Tuesday and Wednesday night.
“We’re the only radio station in the market that plays hip-hop and it’s because of him that we started doing it,” said WCLH general manager Renee Loftus.
After graduation, Onley stayed very much involved with the radio station, becoming a fixture in the station’s offices.
“He went to Wilkes and then never left,” Loftus said. “He was a guiding force behind us changing our format a little bit to include more blocks of hip-hop.”
According to Loftus, when students went home for the summer, Onley would work extra shifts Monday through Friday without pay. Most recently, Loftus and Onley were in talks of starting a morning show Onley would host on WCLH.
Onley’s role with WCLH only boosted his figure in the music community as an influential local celebrity.
Pittston rapper Pat “Buddhamang” Martinelli credits Onley for using his platform to promote local artists.
“Every time I sent him a song, he played it,” Martinelli said. “He was really supportive of the hip-hop in NEPA and always helped out any way he could.”
Even when deejaying in a club, like he often did, Onley would mix local artists in with old- and new-school hip-hop. Rodano’s, Bart & Urby’s and Arena Bar & Grill are just a few of the local bars and clubs Onley would frequently deejay at.
While friends mourn the abrupt and tragic end to Olney’s life, they ask the community to look out for an upcoming fundraiser, or perhaps a college fund, to benefit Onley’s family.
“Anybody who wants to do something for the family, I’m right there,” Eldorado said. “He was the one person in the world that this never should have happened to.”
WILKES-BARRE — Outsiders Bar and Restaurant, the scene of a deadly shooting early Sunday morning, had been operating while owner Louis Weibrecht challenges a decision by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board not to renew its liquor license.The board’s decision of March 20 came after a hearing in December.Michael Onley, 34, of Madison Street, Wilkes-Barre, was gunned down while he stood in the patio area of the tavern at 650 S. Main St. at about 12:15 a.m. Sunday. Onley was transported to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township, where he died.Onley was a popular disc jockey in the region known as DJ Mo. He had a show on Wilkes University’s radio station WCLH 90.7 FM every Tuesday afternoon and evening, according to the radio station’s website.Police on Monday said they had no new information to release about the ongoing investigation. Police seized the tavern’s video surveillance system.The tavern opened in 2003 when Weibrecht purchased the building he renovated. Known as a biker bar, the tavern hosts “Two-Wheel Tuesdays” for motorcycle enthusiasts and has Reggae nights on the weekend.Previous occupantThe building once housed Gordy’s Cukoo’s Nest, which was shut down by then-District Attorney Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. as a nuisance bar in 1994 after a series of disturbances, including a police-related shooting of Roland Kittrell in August of that year.Kittrell was wanted for a sexual assault in Forty Fort. He suffered a gunshot wound to his hand during a melee with police inside the bar. Police Chief Gerard Dessoye, then a captain, suffered a fractured leg during the fight with Kittrell, according to The Times Leader archives.The LCB decided not to renew the tavern’s liquor license, citing 23 violations since 2003. Weibrecht filed an appeal in Luzerne County Court on April 3, permitting the tavern to remain open for business.According to the LCB’s opinion not to reissue the liquor license, the tavern had managerial problems,missing deadlines to pay fines for multiple citations and failing to timely submit its application to renew its liquor license. The tavern also did not maintain a “barred patrons list,” the opinion says.Fines, suspensionsThe tavern paid $15,100 in fines and its liquor license was suspended for a total of 32 days since 2003, according to the opinion.There were seven citations issued for loud noise for music that was heard beyond the property line, three citations for the purchase of alcohol with bad checks, and one citation each for serving a minor, serving alcohol to an intoxicated patron and serving alcohol when the license was suspended.“The record provides ample evidence of (Outsiders) failure to take the appropriate steps to address its operational problems that have resulted in receiving at least one citation every year since 2003, and the Board finds that this alone provides sufficient reason to refuse (Outsiders) renewal application,” the LCB’s opinion states.While the LCB’s opinion cites multiple liquor code violations, city police have been called to the tavern only once, on July 29, 2011, when three patrons became unruly after being told to leave for crashing a private party on the second floor of the building.Attorney William Ruzzo, the tavern’s attorney, responded that no residents or commercial businesses in the neighborhood have filed formal complaints about loud music. A minor was served alcohol after she presented her sister’s driver’s license and the two sisters have similar appearance, Ruzzo said. He also said an employee was hired recently to oversee clerical and administrative operations.Tavern’s reputationRuzzo noted the tavern has a “reputation among competitors and neighbors as an orderly, good neighbor and business.”“Outsiders has offered its premises and resources to charitable and civic organizations, including fundraisers to raise money for seriously injured people and The Moses All-Star Classic, which is an annual basketball game raising thousands of dollars for local charities,” Ruzzo stated.The tavern sponsored a bike run benefit for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in July.Weibrecht could not be reached for comment on Monday.