Po­lice try to sort out Lit­tle Rock shoot­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - HUNTER FIELD

Vi­o­let Brazil blames the two “beef­ing” Lit­tle Rock groups — not the body­guard who shot her leg at Power Ul­tra Lounge early Satur­day morn­ing.

In her view, the pri­vate se­cu­rity guard sim­ply pro­tected him­self and Ricky Hamp­ton, the Mem­phis-based rap­per known as Fi­nese 2Tymes who was per­form­ing at the venue when a vol­ley of gun­fire broke out, in­jur­ing 25. Three oth­ers were hurt flee­ing af­ter the gun­fire.

“We were there just try­ing to have a good time,” said Brazil, who was treated at a hos­pi­tal and re­leased.

Brazil’s ac­count of the week­end’s mass shoot­ing adds to an al­ready cloudy pic­ture of what tran­spired at 220 W. Sixth St. in Lit­tle Rock at 2:30 a.m. Satur­day, blocks from the city’s main fi­nan­cial dis­trict and some of its arts and cul­tural sites.

It got even fuzzier Sun­day morn­ing af­ter fed­eral au­thor­i­ties ar­rested Hamp­ton, 25, in Birm­ing­ham, Ala., on warrants un­re­lated to Satur­day’s shoot­ing. He was sched­uled to per­form at a night club there.

Those warrants — for ag­gra­vated as­sault and felon in pos­ses­sion of a firearm charges — stem from Hamp­ton’s per­for­mance at a club in For­rest City on June 24, po­lice said.

Lt. Steven McClana­han, a Lit­tle Rock Po­lice Depart­ment spokesman, said U.S. au­thor­i­ties plan to pur­sue fed­eral gun charges in con­nec­tion to the For­rest City in­ci­dent.

Fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors in Birm­ing­ham found two hand­guns and an AK-47 in the car Hamp­ton shared with 25-year-old Ken­trell Gwynn, who was also ar­rested, The Birm­ing­ham News re­ported. Those weapons will be tested to de­ter­mine if they match shell cas­ings found at the shoot­ing in Lit­tle Rock, po­lice said.

No weapons were re­cov­ered at the down­town lounge on Satur­day.

Lit­tle Rock de­tec­tives con­sider Hamp­ton a “per­son of in­ter­est” in Satur­day’s mass shoot­ing and plan to in­ter­view him once fed­eral law en­force­ment of­fi­cers ex­tra­dite him to Lit­tle Rock, McClana­han said Sun­day.

“That doesn’t mean he’s a sus­pect,” McClana­han noted.

Lit­tle Rock of­fi­cials on Satur­day crit­i­cized the poster pro­mot­ing Hamp­ton’s per­for­mance at Power Ul­tra Lounge. In the flier, Hamp­ton pointed a gun at the cam­era.

In a state­ment on his Fi­nese 2Tymes Face­book page on Satur­day, Hamp­ton of­fered prayers for “the in­no­cent peo­ple.”

“The vi­o­lence is not for the club peo­ple,” the post read. “We all come with 1 mo­tive at the end of the day, and thats [sic] to have fun. Not to be hurt,” Hamp­ton said in the post, that was in cap­i­tal let­ters.

At a news con­fer­ence Satur­day, Lit­tle Rock Po­lice Chief Ken­ton Buck­ner at­trib­uted the shoot­ing to a months-long dis­pute be­tween ri­val gangs that has caused a spate of vi­o­lence in the city, in­clud­ing drive-by shoot­ings of an 18-year-old and 7-year-old last week.

Po­lice es­ti­mate that mul­ti­ple shoot­ers com­bined to fire 20-40 shots into the crowd at the down­town Lit­tle Rock lounge Satur­day morn­ing.

Brazil, 20, of North Lit­tle Rock echoed the chief’s

claims. The shoot­ing started, she said, be­cause a mem­ber of one group was try­ing to kill a teen be­long­ing to an­other group. The in­ci­dent, she said, has been dis­cussed at length in certain circles on Face­book.

“Some of the peo­ple who were shoot­ing are the same peo­ple in the hos­pi­tal now,” she said.

The ma­jor­ity of shoot­ing vic­tims, who ranged in age from 16 to 35, were treated and re­leased from lo­cal hos­pi­tals. About 10 re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized Sun­day af­ter­noon, but all are ex­pected to sur­vive, au­thor­i­ties said.

The scene of the shoot­ing on Sun­day was quiet. Tele­vi­sion crews lin­gered in a park­ing lot across the street, and church-go­ers stopped to take pho­tos of the club while walk­ing to their cars.

Late Sun­day night, a no­tice to va­cate had been placed at the club’s en­trance,

or­der­ing the keys be re­turned to the land­lord within three days.

Be­hind the build­ing, sev­eral dozen shoes and a Chicago Bulls hat lost by party-go­ers in the frenzy sat near a dump­ster.

City lead­ers on Sun­day of­fered lit­tle ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion about the shoot­ing, but Lit­tle Rock Mayor Mark Stodola said a news con­fer­ence would be held once there is more sub­stan­tial in­for­ma­tion to re­lease.

The mayor also promised to re­view the city’s rules for pri­vate clubs and spe­cial events. Power Ul­tra Lounge was li­censed as a restau­rant, but it was op­er­at­ing like a night­club. Ac­cord­ing to state reg­u­la­tions, the lounge should have stopped serv­ing al­co­hol at 2 a.m., about 30 min­utes be­fore shots broke out.

“I don’t know if there are oth­ers” op­er­at­ing like the down­town lounge, Stodola said in an in­ter­view Sun­day, “but we’re go­ing to find out.”

The lounge’s owner, Her­man Lewis, did not re­turn phone calls to a listed num­ber. Brazil, who fre­quents the Power Ul­tra Lounge and helps pro­mote con­certs there, said Lewis wasn’t there at the time of the shoot­ing.

As of last week, vi­o­lent crime in Lit­tle Rock is up 24 per­cent from the same time last year. The num­ber of vi­o­lent crimes — homi­cide, rape, ag­gra­vated as­sault, rob­bery — has reached 1,386 so far in 2017 through last week, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary data.

Asked whether Satur­day’s shoot­ing and the re­cent uptick in vi­o­lence would tar­nish the city’s rep­u­ta­tion, Stodola said Lit­tle Rock isn’t alone.

“What’s hap­pen­ing here isn’t dif­fer­ent that other ur­ban cen­ters all over the coun­try,” he said, adding that he’s dis­cussed the is­sue with other may­ors from across the coun­try.

Dar­ius Jack­son, 25, of Mem­phis sus­tained gun­shot wounds to the chest and leg dur­ing what he de­scribed as “chaos.”

“I don’t know what hap­pened; just shots ev­ery­where,” he said.

Jack­son, who re­turned to Mem­phis af­ter be­ing re­leased from the hos­pi­tal, said he was sim­ply vis­it­ing Lit­tle Rock and had no con­nec­tion

to Hamp­ton, the per­former.

Brazil said in­ves­ti­ga­tors in­ter­viewed her and other vic­tims at the hos­pi­tal. She said po­lice were out­side the lounge be­fore the shoot­ing oc­curred Satur­day morn­ing and ques­tioned why guns were al­lowed in­side.

City of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edged that two off-duty of­fi­cers were work­ing as se­cu­rity guards in an ad­ja­cent park­ing lot. They stopped one man — be­lieved to be trav­el­ing with the Mem­phis rap­per — openly car­ry­ing a gun from en­ter­ing the lounge, but au­thor­i­ties said they be­lieve he later en­tered through an­other en­trance.

Other vic­tims and wit­nesses said in in­ter­views that pri­vate se­cu­rity guards “softly” pat­ted down those who en­tered, and they didn’t check IDs.

Brazil on Sun­day was grate­ful. Any of those bul­lets could have left her young son moth­er­less. She watched a man stand­ing in front of her dur­ing the con­cert take a bul­let in the torso.

“If he hadn’t been stand­ing there, that bul­let would of hit me straight in the face,” she said.

She paused for a mo­ment be­fore sigh­ing.

“I guess it wasn’t my time to go,” she said.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/MITCHELL PE MASILUN

Peo­ple take a look Sun­day at the af­ter­math of the mass shoot­ing at Power Ul­tra Lounge in down­town Lit­tle Rock.

More in­for­ma­tion on the Web Video, pho­tos on the web arkansason­line.com/ LR­club­shoot­ing

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