The illegal north Minneapolis nightclub where two men were slain early Friday appears to have been run by the same man who violated city ordinances two years ago by hosting wild after-hours parties in an unmarked building in south Minneapolis a block from a police station.
The operator listed for both addresses, a Minneapolis man named Maurice L. Harrison, was arrested in 2011 during a late-night police raid at the south Minneapolis location. More recently, he faced numerous citations for selling alcohol and ignoring city orders to stop operating his "Zodiac Biker Club" at 3859 Fremont Av. N., according to City Council President Barb Johnson.
Johnson said the Zodiac Club had been pushed out of various other locations in her ward on Washington and Lyndale Avenues. She's also fielded complaints from neighbors of the Fremont Avenue location in recent months.
Harrison claimed he ran a charitable business called "Zodiac Inc." when he was busted in 2011 in a police raid that turned up drugs, guns, alcohol and about 100 people partying in what had been a commercial office space near the intersection of E. Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue.
Some 75 people were carted off in a police paddy wagon after the raid, and Harrison was held overnight at Hennepin County jail on a gun charge. A woman who had attended parties at the illegal club told the Star Tribune it had been a biker bar where people were known to carry guns.
Said Johnson: "When people called me about this club, I was like, 'Here we go again,' "referring to the 2011 raid.
Harrison was convicted in 2009 of violating noise ordinances, according to records. Attempts to reach him on Sunday were unsuccessful.
The Fremont Avenue club "was definitely on our radar," said Webber Camden Neighborhood Organization chair Linda Koelman. She said neighbors have complained about loud music, traffic and people coming and going late at night. The neighborhood organization had discussed the problems surrounding the club the night before the shooting, she added.
The city sent a warning letter on Nov. 30 ordering the club to cease illegal use of the building as a motorcycle club. On Jan. 9, the city issued a $200 fine for not complying with written orders. On Feb. 25, regulators issued a $400 fine after police discovered a large party on the premises with alcohol, despite the owner not having a liquor license. Three days later, regulators issued a $400 citation for again not complying with orders.
The city sent its last warning just a week before the gunfire early Friday that killed cousins Erick Felton, 23, and Demetrius Harper, 32.
Johnson said the after-hours club has been difficult to stamp out.
"The police find the fliers on Facebook or e-mails, and they'll pass [fliers] out at bars, 'Come to this address if you want to keep partying,' " said Johnson.
"I think we took the actions that we needed to take," Johnson said. "It's just that people are always shocked how long it actually takes to shut something down. People have rights and if you violate those rights we'd sure hear about it."