LITTLE ROCK — At least 28 people were hurt when gunshots broke out during a rap concert in downtown Little Rock early Saturday.
Dispute between groups
The shooting occurred around 2:30 a.m. at the Power Ultra Lounge, also known as the Lulav Power Bar and Lounge, during a performance by Memphis rapper Finese Twotymes. Little Rock police said the violence apparently was related to a dispute between two groups in the audience and was not an act of terror.
The shooting came at the end of a week in which multiple drive-by shootings were reported in the capital city. In a news conference Saturday afternoon, Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner said the nightclub shooting appeared to be gang-related and may have been connected to some of the recent drive-by shootings. No suspects were in custody, he said.
Buckner said 25 people received gunshot wounds and three were injured while attempting to exit the building in the ensuing chaos. Two were in critical condition, he said.
The ages of the injured ranged from 16 to 35, according to Buckner.
A video of the shooting that was recorded by a person in the audience contains audio of more than 30 shots being fired. Buckner said he did not know how many shooters or weapons were involved.
Two Little Rock police officers who were patrolling the parking lot outside the club between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. stopped a person who was openly carrying a weapon from entering the club, but the person may have gained access through a different entrance, Buckner said.
The chief said he did not know whether any performers were involved in the shooting. He said the real name of Finese Twotymes is Ricky Hampton and that he is wanted on at least one unrelated warrant out of Forrest City.
Buckner also said it was concerning that the concert was promoted in advance with a photo of Finese Twotymes pointing a gun at the camera.
In a statement on Facebook on Saturday, Finese Twotymes said, “Prayers go to the innocent people and there (sic) family that came out to support me, last night in Little Rock Ark. The violence is not for the club people. We all come with 1 motive at the end of the day, and thats to have fun. Not to be hurt. So again I send me condolences to the people who were hurt.”
Club’s license suspended
The state Department of Finance and Administration said Saturday its Alcoholic Beverage Control Division has ordered the immediate suspension of the nightclub’s liquor permit. The permit holder, identified in ABC records variously as Hermon Lewis or Herman Lewis of Little Rock, has been invited to attend a July 10 hearing to argue against the suspension, the agency said.
The club is suspected of disorderly conduct, allowing weapons on the premises and failing to be a good neighbor, the agency said.
A call to a number listed for Herman Lewis was answered Saturday by a woman who said she was Lewis’ mother and that Lewis was “shook up real bad.” She said he did not wish to be interviewed at this time.
Little Rock City Manager Bruce Moore said the lounge was zoned as a restaurant, not a nightclub, and said the city will move to shut down the facility.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson and others expressed concern about the mass shooting and the recent surge in violent crime in the capital city.
“First and foremost, my thoughts are with the victims and their families this morning, and the first lady and I are praying for their quick recovery,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement Saturday morning. “I also want to thank the first responders who no doubt saved lives with their quick action.
“Little Rock’s crime problem appears to be intensifying. Every few days it seems a high-profile shooting dominates the news, culminating with this morning’s event. I have spoken this morning with Mayor (Mark) Stodola and I have offered both my heart felt concern over this senseless violent tragedy and state assets as needed to address the continued threat of violence in our community.”
Hutchinson said facts were still being gathered, “but it is clear that we need to have a comprehensive enforcement strategy in place that helps take the violent threats off the streets. The state will participate and bring assets to the table to support local law enforcement efforts.”
Stodola said during the news conference that he felt “heartbreak” over the shooting and that it was part of a rise in violence dating back to last fall. He said that one person cannot solve the city’s violence problem alone, “but collectively we as a community can do something. By working together, by combining smart policy, important investments and certainly using prayer, I’m certain that we can make a change and bring safety back to our city.”
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement, “Today, we all woke to the tragic news that this senseless act of violence occurred right in the heart of our capital city. As state and community leaders, it is our responsibility to encourage a civil, peaceful discourse and that violence can never be the solution to solve our differences.”
U.S. Sen. John Boozman said in a statement, “Cathy and I send our prayers to the victims of this tragic violence. I continue to stand and support law enforcement to fight this ongoing reckless violence in our capital city.”
U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock said, “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this morning’s senseless act of violence. I am confident in the ability of our seasoned police officers in Little Rock to bring the suspect or suspects to justice, and I have reached out to Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner to offer any assistance he may need from my office.”
State Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Michael John Gray of Augusta said, “We do not need to wait for the next tragedy to turn our heartbreak into action. The Democratic Party of Arkansas demands that our state and city leaders utilize their platforms to elevate the long overdue conversation about gun violence in our communities beyond traditional lip service.”
Austin Bailey, leader of the Arkansas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said in a statement, “I am heartbroken and furious that gun violence has struck Little Rock again — this time as teenagers and young adults were enjoying a concert at a club just a stone’s throw from our state Capitol. … Right here in Little Rock, lawmakers have spent their time kowtowing to the gun lobby and weakening our gun laws instead of taking steps to make us all safer from gun violence. It’s unacceptable and we will not rest until this changes.”