Po­lice be­lieve 11-sec­ond melee may be gang-re­lated, con­nected to other in­ci­dents

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By An­drew DeMillo and Taf i Mukun­yadzi The As­so­ci­ated Press

Gun­shots ring out dur­ing a con­cert in Lit­tle Rock, Ark., leav­ing 28 peo­ple in­jured from an 11-sec­ond melee that po­lice said may be gang-re­lated. »

LIT­TLE ROCK, ARK.» Club­go­ers screamed and scram­bled for cover as dozens of gun­shots rang out dur­ing a rap con­cert in down­town Lit­tle Rock early Satur­day, leav­ing 28 peo­ple in­jured from an 11-sec­ond melee that po­lice said may be gang-re­lated.

Po­lice Chief Ken­ton Buck­ner said in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve mul­ti­ple peo­ple fired shots and that the shoot­ing could be con­nected to other vi­o­lence in the city in re­cent days. All of the vic­tims were ex­pected to sur­vive the shoot­ing at the Power Ul­tra Lounge, a night­club, and Buck­ner cred­ited the work of first re­spon­ders for that.

Twenty-five peo­ple age 16 to 35 suf­fered gun­shot wounds, and three oth­ers had un­re­lated in­juries. Two peo­ple were in crit­i­cal con­di­tion Satur­day af­ter­noon, Buck­ner said.

Courtney Swani­gan, 23, told The As­so­ci­ated Press that when the gun­fire rang out, “I just closed my eyes, got down on the ground and put my hands on my head.”

Mayor Mark Stodola said the city would shut down the night­club un­der a “crim­i­nal abate­ment” pro­gram. State reg­u­la­tors sus­pended the club’s liquor li­cense ear­lier Satur­day and Stodola said the prop­erty’s man­ager was de­liv­er­ing an evic­tion no­tice.

“We know we’ve got to use a ham­mer, we’ve got to use a big ham­mer on the peo­ple who would do vi­o­lence with guns and hurt peo­ple,” the mayor said at an af­ter­noon news con­fer­ence.

He said the city must do more to “keep guns out of the hands of the wrong peo­ple” and sug­gested that peo­ple refuse to pa­tron­ize clubs that seem to pro­mote vi­o­lence. Ma­te­rial ad­ver­tis­ing the con­cert by Ten­nessee rap­per Fi­nese 2Tymes showed a man point­ing a gun at a cam­era.

“A pro­mo­tional video with a gun on the front cover invit­ing peo­ple to a con­cert ... should also be to­tally un­ac­cept­able in our com­mu­nity,” Stodola said.

The shoot­ing capped a vi­o­lent week in Arkansas’ largest city. Po­lice had re­sponded to a dozen drive-by shoot­ings over the pre­vi­ous nine days.

“This does ap­pear to be a con­tin­u­a­tion of dis­putes from some of our lo­cal groups,” Buck­ner said. “You’ve seen some of the things play­ing out in our streets that has re­sulted in drive-by shoot­ings.”

The shoot­ing oc­curred about 2:30 a.m. at the night­club about one mile east of the state Capi­tol build­ing. Top state of­fi­cials of­fered to help the city re­spond to an in­creas­ing num­ber of in­ci­dents.

“Lit­tle Rock’s crime prob­lem ap­pears to be in­ten­si­fy­ing,” Repub­li­can Gov. Asa Hutchin­son said in a news re­lease. “Ev­ery few days it seems a high-pro­file shoot­ing dom­i­nates the news, cul­mi­nat­ing with this morn­ing’s event. I have spo­ken this morn­ing with Mayor Stodola and I have of­fered both my heart­felt con­cern over this sense­less vi­o­lent tragedy and state as­sets as needed to ad­dress the con­tin­ued threat of vi­o­lence in our com­mu­nity.”

A Facebook video posted from in­side the night­club in­cluded au­dio of at least 24 rounds fired in about 11 sec­onds. Dar­ryl Rankin, who posted the video, said a friend of his who at­tended the Fi­nese 2Tymes con­cert with him had a bul­let “stuck in his spine.”

Calls to a num­ber listed for Fi­nese 2Tymes’ book­ing agent weren’t re­turned Satur­day, but a mes­sage was posted on the artist’s Facebook page of­fer­ing thoughts and prayers for those in­jured: “THE VI­O­LENCE IS NOT FOR THE CLUB PEO­PLE. WE ALL COME WITH ONE MO­TIVE AT THE END OF THE DAY, AND THAT’S TO HAVE FUN.”

Ben­jamin Krain, Getty Images

Lit­tle Rock (Ark.) Po­lice Depart­ment de­tec­tives and crime scene per­son­nel col­lect ev­i­dence at the Power Ul­tra Lounge night­club Satur­day.

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