The commercial brick building at the corner of Fremont and 39th Avenues N. was nothing anyone would look at twice, sitting on a street lined with homes and lacking even a sign out front.
But gunshots there early Friday left two people dead and one injured, and had police scrambling to find the shooters.
Minneapolis officials said that from 50 to 100 people had packed the North Side venue, which had been operating illegally as an after-hours club for people who wanted to dance, mingle with friends and enjoy open mic nights after most Minneapolis bars closed at 2 a.m.
Zoning inspectors were at the club in November and issued a violation order for illegal use, city spokesman Matt Laible said in an e-mail. The city has issued three citations since then totaling $1,100, which remain unpaid, he said. One was for illegally selling alcohol.
“Although the next steps are still being considered, steps to have the property declared a public nuisance and prohibit further use of the building until a legal use is found are being explored,” Laible said.
The victims’ identities were not released, but Monique White said one of the victims was her ex-husband’s son Erick Felton, who was 23.
Noting President Obama’s recent visit to north Minneapolis to address gun violence, she said, “This needs to come to a halt. ... The violence needs to stop, period.”
White drew headlines last year for her successful efforts with Occupy Minnesota to have U.S. Bank modify her mortgage after the bank foreclosed on her home. The single mother of two fought the bank’s actions for months, even confronting CEO Richard Davis at a shareholder meeting.
She said she dreamed early Friday that she looked down on her chest and saw blood. Then she woke up. Somebody called to tell her Erick was shot.
“He was fun, giddy, easy to get along with,” she said, saying he had been in jail in the past but was turning his life around. “He was well-mannered, well-respected, raised in church, yes ma’am, no ma’am, helped his mother when she had to work at night.”
About 20 minutes after police were called, a third man who had been at the club arrived at Hennepin County Medical Center with noncritical injuries, according to police.
Sgt. Steve McCarty said police are interviewing several people connected to the incident, but no suspects are in custody. He said preliminary information indicated that the public is not at risk.
According to people at the scene, the other victim’s nickname was Meaty, and several who knew him said he was in his 30s and had several children.
Among the acquaintances was Kevin Gray, 30, who said he was a regular at the club.
“I’m lost,” he said. “Right now I’m shook up. ... I’m ready to cry now. My stomach hurts.”
He said the venue usually stayed open until 4 a.m. and was a relaxed spot that didn’t draw trouble.
Gray said one of the artists performing early Friday wanted him to come out and DJ for him, but he turned it down because he didn’t feel like going out.
And now, he said, “look what happened.”
Yet Phil Murphy, owner of a flower shop down the block, said he heard gunshots on the corner last week and has fielded complaints from customers about the club.
“I always ask them, ‘How’s your block, how’s your neighborhood?’ and they’re always complaining about this corner, [that] it’s going to blow up soon,” he said. “Trouble.”
Several people came by to stick flowers in the snow outside the scene. Tearful relatives streamed by the block, which police had cordoned off Friday morning.
“I need to go and identify my brother’s body,” said one young woman, declining to give her name but saying her brother was “Meaty.” She vowed to kill whoever shot him.
Peace activist K.G. Wilson said he feared retaliation in the case.
As he does at many Minneapolis shooting scenes, Wilson waved a sign at passersby on Fremont that had the same three words often echoed by distraught North Side citizens: “Stop the killing.”