A brawl inside a Dinkytown tobacco shop early Sunday preceded a shooting that left two dead and a clerk injured, according to social media posts that showed the moments leading up to the deadly encounter, which came amid other weekend gun violence in Minneapolis.
Bystander videos filmed inside Royal Cigar & Tobacco at 14th Avenue and 4th Street SE. depicted a melee involving at least seven men, with two exchanging punches on the floor as products spilled from shelves. Two men in ski masks were seen with their arms extended toward the scuffle — apparently aiming firearms — followed by a pop.
In a two-second clip, two of the men previously seen fighting lay motionless on the floor. Both died at the scene.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office identified the victims late Monday as Bryson Lamarr Haskell and Jamartre Michael Sanders, both 24 and from Minneapolis.
Chaos erupted between two groups of customers in the tiny smoke shop just outside the University of Minnesota campus around 2:15 a.m., shortly before its posted closing time. It marked the continuation of a bloody stretch in Minneapolis, where at least 12 people have been shot and killed since Nov. 1 — an unusually high death toll for this time of year.
A store employee, also in his 20s, was taken to HCMC with at least one noncritical gunshot wound. None of the three shot are believed to have been University of Minnesota students.
Minneapolis police declined to comment on the videos or speculate on possible motives, noting that the case remains under investigation. No arrests have been made.
Municipal codes govern what hours a certain type of business can operate based on their zoning district. Standard hours in that area require tobacco shops to close by 11 p.m. on a Saturday. Local establishments can apply for a permit that allows them to extend their hours, but approval is contingent on a public hearing before the City Council.
City officials initially told the Star Tribune they had no records to indicate that Royal Cigar was allowed to operate at the hour of the shooting. But late Tuesday, employees within the licensing unit discovered that the city's Planning Commission issued a conditional use permit in 2009 that authorized Royal Cigar to conduct sales until 3 a.m. daily.
Few tobacco shops hold such a permit.
The triple shooting has jump-started an investigative process between the city's licensing office and Royal Cigar, which could ultimately lead to stricter enforcement measures, citations or even revocation. During a face-to-face meeting with the business owner, city officials plan to review their expectations and articulate "that they are not meeting them if people are coming in and getting into gunfights," said Erik Hansen, the interim director of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED).
"We work to gain compliance. We do not want to see [violence] happen again," Hansen continued, noting that compliance doesn't always suffice. Sometimes, the city is forced to pull a business' license.
Records indicate that Royal Cigar, whose license was first approved at that location in 2004, was cited in August for illegally selling its products to customers under 21 years old.
The shop reopened by Sunday afternoon.
On Monday, as classes resumed, a steady steam of students filtered past. Inside, the business appeared tidy, with no sign of the shootings that occurred less than 36 hours before.
A shop clerk declined to comment when approached by a Star Tribune reporter Monday, saying only: "We are OK."
The registered business owners could not be reached for comment.
Lottie Madson popped into Royal Cigar on Monday afternoon with a friend, where they regularly shop for vapes and cigarettes. They heard about the shooting through word of mouth and media reports, but questioned why the University of Minnesota hadn't pinged students about it through the SAFE-U emergency alert system.
"It doesn't prevent me from going about my normal routine, but it's sad," said Madson, a senior architecture major. "They're really nice in there."
She recalled an incident in the shop last summer when a heated altercation spilled inside the store and the clerk advised she leave because "everyone is strapped" — meaning they were carrying firearms.
The tobacco shop falls just outside the area covered by that alert system, according to a map on the University of Minnesota's website.
Public safety concerns in Marcy-Holmes, the neighborhood encompassing Dinkytown and surrounding areas where many U students live, have long been fueled by unruly teenagers out past curfew. However, MPD's data dashboard shows that overall crime, including assaults, burglaries, thefts, robberies and shots-fired calls, are all down this year.
There have been 64 homicides in the city this year, according to a Star Tribune database.
A previous version of this story misstated Royal Cigar's operational status with the city, based on information provided by city officials. They have a conditional use permit authorizing them to sell products until 3 a.m. daily.