A crowded downtown Minneapolis club erupted in gunfire shortly before closing time early Saturday, the sudden hail of bullets wounding nine people, including a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
Police were still looking for the gunman late Saturday in what they described as a gang-related crime in which only one of the victims was the intended target.
The shooting occurred at the 400 Soundbar at 3rd Avenue and 4th Street N., about 1:40 a.m. Police officers responding to the call found nine people injured with gunshot wounds, including one victim who needed CPR at the scene. Two of the injured had serious wounds but were in stable condition Saturday and are expected to recover.
Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Linval Joseph was among the injured with a minor leg wound.
“This is an isolated incident,” Assistant Police Chief Matt Clark said. “It’s very unusual for the downtown area.”
However, the attack was the latest in at least four instances of gang violence that have occurred downtown in less than a year. A November 2013 shooting inside the Epic nightclub left one man dead. Police linked that shooting, as well as two downtown drive-by attacks this April that wounded three people, to gang disputes.
Saturday’s victims, men and women ranging in age from 20 to 25, were not identified by police. They were treated at Hennepin County Medical Center and North Memorial Medical Center.
Joseph, 25, the injured Viking, was described by the team in a statement as an “innocent bystander.” He was hit in the calf by a stray bullet. The injury was minor, and he was treated and released at a hospital, the Vikings said.
Sources told the Star Tribune that there was no altercation between Joseph, his teammates and the gunman. Hours earlier the Vikings had defeated the Oakland Raiders in their preseason opener, and some Vikings players were in the back of Soundbar’s building when the gunfire erupted in the front of the business. It was unclear which teammates were with Joseph at the time.
Soundbar closed indefinitely
City officials revoked Soundbar’s license and asked the club to close after the shooting. Mayor Betsy Hodges said owner Johann Sfaellos voluntarily closed indefinitely.
“I’m not in the business for that, I’m not in the business for violence,” Sfaellos said. “This is not what I’m looking for.”
The club owner was there when the shooting happened and said that beforehand, it was a typical night with bar patrons socializing and dancing.
“Suddenly, a person just pop, pop, pop,” Sfaellos said of the shooter, who he said dropped the gun and disappeared. “The whole thing was surreal. It was out of the blue. It was a normal night, nice party, nice crowd. And then some guy started shooting. No arguments, no nothing.”
Sfaellos said Soundbar has security personnel who check for weapons before people enter the club and “we can’t figure out how [the shooter] got in.”
“We get the least calls to police,” said Sfaellos, a longtime owner of several downtown clubs. “We don’t do that crowd.”
Extra police downtown
But Minneapolis city officials said Soundbar has had a series of licensing issues and has had to increase its security. Council Member Jacob Frey, whose ward includes downtown, said he has met with Soundbar owners within the past month about safety issues.
“We want a vibrant, happening downtown,” Frey said. “But we also need a safe one.”
To address safety concerns about downtown, city leaders said Saturday that more reserve officers were added to patrols and more officers are working during the “power shift” when bars close.
Saturday’s shooting “is notable because these incidents are so rare,” Hodges said.
In the November 2013 downtown club incident, Tyrone Washington, 27, of Crystal, was fatally shot after arguing with another patron. More recently, ambush-style shootings injured three people April 12 near Target Field and April 30 near Hennepin County Medical Center. Police have linked all three attacks to gang feuds.
Investigators are reviewing surveillance cameras at Soundbar and other evidence. Anyone with information can call Minneapolis police at 612-692-TIPS (8477).
Staff writers Mark Craig, Matt Vensel and Eric Roper contributed to this report.