The violence reignites feud between Champions bar and the city of Minneapolis over security measures involving off-duty cops.
A bar fight and shooting that left an innocent bystander dead early Thursday reignited a simmering feud between the W. Lake Street bar’s owner and Minneapolis city officials, with each accusing the other of undermining the bar’s security.
A police statement about the 12:30 a.m. shooting at Champions Sports Bar & Grill, 105 W. Lake St., said a 51-year-old man shot in the bar died six hours later at Hennepin County Medical Center.
The dead man’s name was not immediately available. The gunman was at large, according to police.
According to Ed Matthews, the bar’s attorney, a patron entered the bar, “noticed somebody” and began hitting that person. The person being attacked pulled a gun out of his boot and fired twice, injuring the attacker and killing the 51-year-old, whom Matthews described as an innocent bystander.
“This is tragically unfortunate,” he said.
Video cameras stationed throughout the bar captured the shooting, Matthews said. The video has been turned over to police investigators.
Matthews said the shooting never would have happened if it weren’t for a city order last year that prohibited bar owner Rick Nelson from hiring off-duty police officers for security.
“It’s really simple,” he said. “No one’s going to commit a crime at the bar with a police officer at the door.”
That’s not true, said Minneapolis city attorney Susan Segal, who said city officials recommended last fall that the bar hire two off-duty officers to work outside the bar and add a third on the busiest nights. The officers cannot work inside the bar, however, which is true of all bars in Minneapolis.
“It’s outrageous for Champions to suggest that someone else is to blame for their own lack of safety measures,” Segal said in an e-mail Thursday.
Segal said the bar’s reluctance to follow the city’s security plan has forced city officials to begin the process to revoke Champions’ business license.
An undercover police sting at Champions in 2012 netted 13 adults on drug-dealing charges in and around the bar, according to police. Undercover officers said they bought drugs inside the bar five times, on the sidewalk outside or at a nearby bus stop six times, and made another seven buys that started in the bar but ended somewhere else.
Bar owner Rick Nelson sued the city last December for what he said was a racially motivated scheme to shutter the bar. The suit, which claims the sting unfairly portrayed the bar as a drug den only because drug dealers operating on the sidewalk were characterized by police as being associated with the bar, could get a court date by April of next year.
Police urged anyone with information to call the Minneapolis Police Department’s tips line at (612) 692-TIPS (8477).
Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747