Winnipeg nightclub personnel blame police for latest shooting

Officials with the Empire Cabaret are blaming a lack of police presence in the downtown nightclub for a weekend shooting that injured four club patrons.

Clubs are responsible for their own security, say police

Officials with the Empire Cabaretare blaminga lack of police presence in thedowntown nightclubfor a weekend shooting that injured four club patrons.

Standing on the steps of the club —near a bloodstain that remained on the Main Street sidewalk as a visible reminder ofthe shooting—the club's events co-ordinator made a brief statement to the media Monday afternoon.

"Police presence is the only effective way to deter this violence," Tina Rosenberg said. "We need help. When will Winnipeg police services wake up and deal with this problem?"

Rosenberg would not address how the gun got into the club, but said the Empire recently increased security and has "fully operational, state-of-the art" metal detectors in place.

"We have been requesting uniformed officers from Winnipeg police services at our expense for our establishment for five years," she said.

"We have been turned down numerous times and told that this service is not available due to lack of manpower."

Special-duty police officers are available for some special events, she said, adding that officials at the club believed its situation was no different.

"If 25 police can attend a crime scene, why can't two be present regularly?" she asked.

In August, the owners of clubs and bars in the Exchange District and downtown met with city officials and police after a string of violent incidents, including two shootings outsidenightclubs in July.

Rosenberg said the club owners predicted more violence would take place without a greater police presence.

'Ludicrous' suggestion: police

At a hastily arranged press conference Monday afternoon, Deputy Chief Menno Zacharias of Winnipeg policesaid the club's accusations —that police are to blame for the weekend shooting —are "ludicrous," suggesting the Empire is responsiblefor hiring more private security guards if it is having problems.

Allowing clubs to hire police on a regular basis would create two levels of policing, he said: one for those who can afford to pay officers, and another for those who can't.

Police badges are not for sale, Zacharias said, adding that an officer's job is to patrol the streets, not provide private security for nightclubs.

Police spokesman Sgt. Kelly Dennisonsaidofficers arrived on the scene of the shooting within minutes.

"Our cruiser cars, our street crimes unit, was a block away when this whole thing happened. I believe they were actually making sure that they were around this specific bar when it closed, just because of some of the history," he said.

"However, that doesn't change the fact that these incidents occur whether we're there or not."

1 victim remains in hospital

A 41-year-old woman and three men— one 35 years old and two others age 32 — were shot in the Empire Cabaret in Winnipeg's Exchange District neighbourhood around 2 a.m. CT Sunday.

Three of the injured club patrons have since been released from hospital, while one man remains there in stable condition.

"When the shots were fired, everyone was just shocked, and after that, everyone just started screaming and crying and stuff like that," said Kevin Olid, who was in the club at the time.

"I just see two men running in, and then the other guy shot the other guy, and then everyone just scrambled. Everyone ran out, and then cops came in and that was it."

DJ Paul Arnold was spinning records at the club when he heard popping sounds.

"I was just playing music with the headphones on, heard a couple of noises and thought it was the stereo system, you know, a popping sound.Lights came on and they told us to leave."

Police have not identified any suspects, but investigators believe someone pulled out a gun and fired several shots during a fight between two groups of men in the club.

"The victims in this were not part of that altercation. They were not part of the two groups that were arguing or fighting in the cabaret," Dennison said on Sunday.

"At this point, it's looking like they were just innocent bystanders."

In the wake of this weekend's violence, Arnold said he's reconsidering his job in local clubs.

"It's scary… all that shooting going on. I don't want to jump into the middle of this just to play music for an hour. It's not worth it."