Hundreds of Tempe residents, music lovers and business owners packed a neighborhood safety meeting and poured out into the adjoining hallway Monday, which focused on the shooting that injured 16 outside the Clubhouse March 2.
“They violated the safety of neighbors who live nearby, the safety of patrons at the club having a good time, the employees who work there and our officers who responded,” Tempe city manager Charlie Meyer said of the shooters.
While the incident made national news last week, safety concerns still resonated with residents who were notified of the meeting by mail.
Tempe police Lt. Mike Horne reassured residents that the investigation was ongoing and they were looking at ways to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future. Clubhouse owner, Eugenia Louise Ruven, was arrested and cited last week for violations of the business’ security plan, which is tied to its use permit.
Many residents questioned how a similar situation could be prevented, while regulars to The Clubhouse said they felt the club followed safety protocols.
“This is a right-to-carry state and it could happen to anyone,” said Sally Kellett, a former bar owner who employed Ruven for years. “This is the world we live in now.”
The shooting, which happened shortly before midnight on a Friday night, occurred outside the club while about 250 people waited to get inside for a show, Horne said. The headliner, Nipsey Hussle, a rapper with a street gang affiliation, never took the stage.
“There were numerous violations to the security plan,” Tempe Police Cmdr. Kim Hale said. Had the appropriate precautions been taken, it would likely have been prevented, he said.
Preventative measures from the way chairs are arranged and the volume of music to the starting and ending times of the show and the colors displayed can make a difference in this sort of situation, Meyer said.
Keeping orderly lines, preventing people from loitering in the parking lot and having a general sense of order can prevent fights from even starting, Hale said.
Other local bars and clubs enhance their security when bringing in “certain acts,” Hale said. That can include paying additional police officers to be at the event and sometimes that means certain acts aren’t acquired because the cost of security becomes too high.
However, in this situation, the police weren’t aware that Nipsey Hussle was going to perform in Tempe, said Horne.
“Do we have a gang problem?” Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff asked. “In general, Tempe is a safe community, but not one that is immune to gang activity. It’s a larger issue and throughout the U.S. there is a problem with gang activity.”
In Maricopa County there are about 20,000 identified gang members, Ryff said.
“Thank god no one was killed,” Ryff said. “A glaze to the arm or head—an inch or two to the right and it might have been a different story.”
Many questions directed at the officials centered on who should and would take the blame, including the club owner, the promoter and the police department.
The department said identifying responsibility was still part of the investigation. A hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. April 3 in the city council chambers.
While questions remain about who should have been aware of Nipsey Hussle’s gang affiliations, Larry Combs, a Tempe resident and co-owner of Loyal Management, a local talent firm, said promoters should do a better job letting clubs know when artist might warrant additional security. “But promoters won’t do it because it will come out of their chunk of the money and they won’t to let out bad publicity,” he said. For the owner of a club, it’s hard to know the reputation of an artis, he added.
“We recognize that we were very fortunate that no one was killed,” said Tempe Police Lt. Mike Horne. “Next time, whether it be in Tempe or Gilbert or Phoenix or Glendale, we may not be so lucky.”
“Residents are our eyes and ears,” said Hale. Residents should always report fights, gunshots and graffiti.
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