Hundreds of concert-goers waiting outside an Arizona nightclub for a hip-hop show fled in panic as shooting erupted involving three gunmen, leaving at least 14 people wounded. Police arrested one suspect and were hunting two others.
“People were running in all different directions, and some people were trying to force their way into the bar to get away,” police spokesman Lt. Mike Horn said. “It was incredibly chaotic, and understandably so. Again, we’re just fortunate that no one was killed.”
Two of those wounded late Friday night in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe were in serious condition, while the 12 others had relatively minor injuries, authorities said.
Witness Paul Butler was among the crowd lined up to get into the club to hear Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle perform. Butler told KTVK-TV that he heard a series of pops as the gunfire erupted.
“And you see everybody running, couple more shots, everybody running,” Butler said. “It was pure chaos.”
The man in custody is one of three who opened fire at one another after they began arguing as a crowd of at least 250 people lined up at The Clubhouse Music Venue, Horn said. He was in a car that a patrol officer stopped just after the shooting.
Horn said all three men are believed to be affiliated with Phoenix-area gangs. He asked for the public’s help in identifying the two still at large.
Police had only a vague description of suspects wearing dark clothing who ran away from the club on East Broadway Road, about 7 miles east of downtown Phoenix.
Hussle never took the stage for the midnight show but tweeted after the shooting: “Az .... y’all gotta be cool man. This ... ain’t rite.”
A phone call and email to his publicist weren’t immediately returned.
Four hours after the shooting, the parking lot was virtually empty with only police activity apparent. All entrances to the lot were cordoned off with tape, and squad cars were posted around the area.
The website for the business – located in a strip mall within two miles of Arizona State University’s main campus in Tempe – says it’s been in operation for six years hosting music shows nightly for all age groups.
Horn said the one suspect in custody was being held on 13 counts of aggravated assault and one count of assisting a criminal street gang.
There have been problems at the club in the past, Horn said, including a 2007 fatal shooting that remains unsolved. Police worked with the club owner then after learning he was turning over his business to promoters for events, believing the owner was absolving himself of responsibility for anything that happened, Horn said. Police followed up with the owner about a year and a half ago, to make sure he was providing adequate security.
That may not have been in place late Friday, Horn said. Some witnesses told police that some people in line refused to be searched for weapons.
Horn urged anyone who can help identify the two men being sought to call Tempe police or the local “silent witness” telephone line at 480-WITNESS.