Police try to sort out Little Rock shooting
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.
People take a look Sunday at the aftermath of the mass shooting at Power Ultra Lounge in downtown Little Rock.
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