Police have made one arrest but are still continuing to search for two other suspects believed to be involved in a gang-related shooting outside a Tempe nightclub late Friday that left 15 injured.
Tempe police arrested Raynon Jones, 19, of Tempe early Saturday on suspicion of 13 counts of aggravated assault and assisting a criminal street gang as he was leaving the parking lot of The Clubhouse Music Venue, 1320 E. Broadway Road, where rap artist Nipsy Hussle was performing inside.
Jones is being held in a Maricopa County jail on $1 million bond.
Police said Jones was leaving with two wounded suspects in his vehicle shortly after midnight. Jones told police he was taking them to the hospital moments after witnesses said Jones and two other documented members of the South Phoenix “Vista Blood” gang were agitating people in line — possibly rival gang members — about 30 minutes ealier. Jones allegedly said, “We can make this happen tonight,” before pulling up his shirt and displaying a handgun; moments later shots rang out, causing the crowd to flee in every direction, police said.
Police confiscated a 9 mm handgun from the backseat of Jones’ car. Jones admitted it was his, but said he didn’t fire it. Police are trying to determine whether the gun was used in the shooting.
In what Tempe police believe is one of the city’s largest shootings, investigators say many of those among questioned from crowd of nearly 300 — ranging from age 17 to 43 — at the bar that night do not wish to aid in the prosecution of those responsible, likely out of fear and retribution from other gang members. However, Tempe police spokesman Lt. Mike Horn said when the criminal element is present as in this case, police still can move forward with charges, said Lt. Mike Horn, a Tempe police spokesman.
Overall, there were 15 people injured, and 14 of them have been released from local hospitals, Horn said. The 15th victim, who was shot in the leg below the knee, is listed in serious condition, but is expected to recover.
“The fact of the matter is that we’re very fortunate that no one was killed that night, but we may not be as fortunate the next time this happens,” Horn said during a crowded press conference at the Tempe Police Department’s Apache sub-station on Monday. “And if these people aren’t taken off the street, it will happen. We have an ongoing criminal case into this matter and an administrative case looking to see if certain procedures were followed by the bar’s owners. But right now, the criminal investigation is the most important thing. We have a lot of people out there looking for the other two suspects, and the fact of the matter is that we don’t know where they’re at.”
Police recovered spent 9 mm shell casings at the scene as well as spent .40 caliber and spent .357 shell casings.
Hussle’s real name is Ermias Ashgedom, and he has claimed membership in the rival Crips gang, according to the report. Hussle claims that none of the shooters had tickets to the show.
Police described the two other shooting suspects as black males who were wearing dark clothing. It isn’t known how they got away through the nearby neighborhood as several police cars converged on the area, asked to see the IDs of those driving up nearby streets. Air support was also provided, and police are reviewing video surveillance from the bar.
One of the issues that the Clubhouse could be facing is underage drinking and whether they correctly separated the juveniles from the adults during the event, police said. The Clubhouse is known to host underage events, but some kind of barrier is required between the adults and juveniles, Horn said. Police also are investigating whether the bar had the correct permits to host the event.
And although the Clubhouse’s owners “pat down” patrons before entering the establishment, the shots were fired outside the bar and no one inside was injured, Horn said.
“It seems like for us, a lot of these kinds of things happen in parking lots,” Horn said.
Police have responded to a number of incidents at The Clubhouse in recent years, but not an alarming or large number, Horn said.
In 2007, the Clubhouse was the scene of an unsolved gang-related shooting that left 19-year-old Deron Gibson dead.
Police also are investigating to see if the same gangs are connected to both shootings.
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