Vikings say victim of club shooting wasn't at fault

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 10, 2014 - 9:04 AM

The team said tackle Linval Joseph was an “innocent bystander” when a bullet struck him in the leg early Saturday.

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Minnesota Vikings Linval Joseph (98).

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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Vikings nose tackle Linval Joseph was sitting at a private table with some teammates in the back of the 400 Soundbar at 3rd Avenue and 4th Street when shots were fired inside the front of the nightclub, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the shooting that took place about 1:40 a.m. Saturday morning.

Patrons dropped to the floor when the first shots were fired. Joseph was on the floor when he realized a stray bullet had struck his calf. Sources described it as a flesh wound.

The Vikings released a statement saying Joseph was an “innocent bystander” and was treated at Hennepin County Medical Center for a “minor” wound. Sources said Joseph returned to Mankato, where the team is holding training camp, on Saturday, an off day, but would not practice on Sunday. Joseph was scheduled to meet with the team’s doctors and athletic trainers Saturday but wasn’t expected to miss more than a couple of weeks. That means he would be OK to play the Sept. 7 regular-season opener at St. Louis.

Joseph, coach Mike Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman are expected to meet with the media Sunday in Mankato and discuss the situation.

Police were still looking Saturday for the gunman who shot nine people in what authorities called a gang-related incident in which the suspect was targeting one of the victims. Two of the victims suffered serious injuries but were in stable condition and expected to survive.

Joseph was interviewed by police as a victim who was simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” according to sources. Joseph’s teammates, who weren’t identified, were not interviewed because there was no connection established between the gunman and the Vikings players.

Club owner Johann Sfaellos, who was there, had a similar description, telling the Star Tribune that no fights had broken out before the incident and that it was a typical night for the patrons.

The shooting happened hours after the Vikings defeated the Oakland Raiders 10-6 in their preseason opener at TCF Bank Stadium. Joseph, one of the team’s prized free-agent acquisitions, started against the Raiders and played two series before the first unit was pulled and rested. The game ended at 9:56, and most players didn’t leave the stadium until after 11.

The 6-4, 338-pound Joseph, 26, was signed to a five-year, $31.5 million deal in March. He’s the first pure nose tackle the team has had since Pat Williams retired after the 2010 season. He also plays an integral position in coach Mike Zimmer’s defense, which is pressure-based but also emphasizes gap control in the middle of the line of scrimmage.

Sources said Joseph rarely goes to nightclubs. There also is no record of Joseph running afoul of the league’s personal conduct policy.

“The entire Vikings organization is extremely thankful that Linval was not seriously hurt, and our thoughts are with all of the victims of this shooting,” the Vikings said in a statement. “The team will defer any further comment to the Minneapolis Police Department during its ongoing investigation.”

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