Chief: Police at club when shooting broke out; no suspects in custody | Arkansas Blog

Chief: Police at club when shooting broke out; no suspects in custody

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CHIEF RESPONDS: At city news conference. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • CHIEF RESPONDS: At city news conference.
Jacob Rosenberg will be reporting later with more details from a city news conference about the Power Lounge mass shooting last night, but early reports indicate off-duty police were working security at the club and that no one is yet in custody.

All emphasized concern for victims and said all of the 28 injured, including 25 with gunshot wounds, were expected to survive, though two are listed in critical condition.

  • Brian Chilson
  • MAYOR STODOLA: Vows club losure.
Police say they stopped someone who tried to enter with a gun, but somehow an armed person, or persons, managed to gain entrance.

Police Chief Kenton Buckner said the shots were fired inside the club by multiple people after a dispute broke out during music by a Memphis rapper.

Buckner said two off-duty officers were working private security, but they were outside in a parking lot, not inside the club when the shooting happened. (Note: These police officers reportedly left the club at 2:00 a.m.) Vice squad officers also visited the club around midnight, he said.

Ambulances took abut 10 of the wounded to hospitals. Most of others were taken by private vehicles.

Buckner said, according to media Twitter reports, that the public at large wasn't in danger by anyone roaming free after participating in Friday night's shooting.

Mayor Mark Stodola said it was "unacceptable" that the rap act was promoted with a photograph of a performer pointing a gun. He also described the shooting as a disagreement between "two subsets" of people. Does that mean gangs?

Stodola quote: "We must do more to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people."

Yes, but, what does that mean?

Buckner quote:  "I think when you get two groups from LR & Memphis together it is a recipe for disaster. "

Buckner said it's possible, though he's not ready to say for sure, that the club shootings had some relationship to the recent spate of drive-by and other shootings in the city.

Stodola quote: "We are going to be extra vigilant to issues of people walking streets with guns."

The NRA won't like that kind of talk. Many of them believe open carry is legal in Arkansas and the legislature just expanded the number of places, including clubs, where concealed weapons can be taken. You can't just stop people for carrying a gun. And profiling those who are stopped can be dangerous business, too.

Stodola vowed the city will close the club as a nuisance.

More video, courtesy of partner KARK, from inside the club.

Some more context here from Jacob:

Little Rock police say they have no one in custody and are not releasing the names of any suspects, but did say that it could be "possibly" related to a recent uptick in shootings in the city.

For the first time, too, Chief Buckner called it “gang” activity versus what has been called, in the past, “organizations” or “groups.”

“We believe that this potentially involved gang activity. I’m not a chief that walks back from that phrase or tries to act as if we don’t have that issue,” he said.

The victims, according to Buckner, ranged in age from 16 to 35 and are all African American. Buckner estimated 20 to 40 shots fired, but said that just based off the widely circulated video of the shooting and did not know the number of guns involved the incident.

The name of the artist was also revealed: Ricky Hampton. Police said he has warrants out already in Forrest City.

Another swirling question is the lack of fatalities. A key may have come a few years ago, when medics partnered with the police department to teach certain procedures for potentially mass tragedy events.

“It really began to pay off last night,” said Greg Thompson, from Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services. “When our medics began to arrive on the scene — when we began to do our triage — we found that someone of the victims had already been triaged by the police department. A total of five tourniquets were used and one chest sealed.”

“I’d say a few years ago we’d never seen anything like that. And I believe that their actions had direct positive impact on the outcome of this event,” he said.

Let’s step back, too, and discuss what might happen next.

With the use of the word “gangs” — and with a poster depicting a man holding a gun — it seems very likely you’ll have a rabid media environment harking back to the 1990s. It is a bit odd to use the word, considering LRPD has no suspects and could not tell reporters how many “gangs” were involved, but it happened.

Mayor Stodola seems to have tied the shooting, already, to a concrete change in policy he would like to see.

“I will predict for you, that once we get this information, we will find out that a lot of the people — both victims and suspects — have previous criminal records and probably are on probation or parole,” he said.

Stodola said that he would be pushing for longer sentences and harsher penalties for those on parole and probation who have guns, including getting more cases into federal courts. He has called the governor to put together a commission to address the problem.

“The issue of felons in possession of firearms, I can tell you as a former prosecutor, is very disconcerting to me. We need stronger state laws,” he said. "We've got to take these repeat gun offenders off the streets, which means we're going to have increased supervision by our probation and parole officers."

At a community meeting with the Chief Buckner last week, which Stodola also attended, Stodola voiced similar rhetoric, saying a rise in crime was related to the relaxation of parole laws and encouraged policy changes on the state level.

This, for Arkansas, is not new at all. One of the reasons the state has a booming prison population is because, in 2013, Darrell Dennis, while on parole, murdered 18-year-old Forrest Adams Abrams. Dennis had already violated parole and, quickly, people began to blame the state for not locking him up.

Lindsey Millar wrote about how this directly led to Arkansas’s squeeze on prison beds. Read that full story here. Here’s an important look at what happened statistic wise:

By end of the year, another consequence became apparent: The number of people imprisoned by the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) had increased 17.7 percent in a year, which made it the fastest growing prison population in the country in 2013, more than seven times the national average.
In the last legislative session, state legislators tried to address the rising population, especially in relation to unnecessary prison sentences for technical violations of parole in Act 423. With another high profile shooting — and Stodola connecting it to the idea of parolees — there is a brewing discussion about prison expansion just as the state seemed to move forward on the issue.

When you crack down on parole, that can mean putting more people away and for longer.

Lastly, the city is going to reexamine bars being open past 2 a.m., Stodola said.

The Power Lounge, Bruce Moore told the public, is actually zoned as a restaurant and his office will move to close it Monday.

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