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Friday, August 1, 2014

One dead after overnight Old Town shooting

By Deb Gruver and Hurst Laviana
The Wichita Eagle

Part of Old Town looked like an episode of the TV show “CSI” on Saturday as police investigated a shootout in which officers returned fire and one person died.

Yellow crime scene tape cordoned off a public parking garage adjacent to the Hotel at Old Town, and cones marked evidence. Investigators took measurements and huddled throughout the day while Wichita Police Department officials remained mostly mum and wouldn’t confirm whether the man who died had been shot by police.

The melee reportedly began at about 2 a.m. Saturday after a concert at Doc Howard’s Lounge ended and clubgoers spilled into the streets. A fight broke out, and someone started firing a gun.

Wichita police Lt. Scott Heimerman told KFDI, The Eagle’s news partner, that officers chased a man armed with a gun into the parking garage, where they exchanged gunfire with him. Sedgwick County emergency dispatch records confirm it was an officer-involved shooting, a supervisor said.

Police Lt. Randy Reynolds confirmed to The Eagle that one of five people who were wounded had died, but he would not say anything else.

Later, at a regularly scheduled briefing with police, Sgt. Bruce Watts said Police Chief Norman Williams’ office would release more information Monday.

Doc Howard’s owner Bryan Shapiro said he was surprised when early news accounts linked the shooting to his club, which he said closed more than 15 minutes before the shooting.

“It happened in the middle of the street in the most neutral part of Old Town,” he said. “They just happened to run in our direction.”

Shapiro said video cameras from his club and traces of blood that were still visible Saturday indicate that the first shots were fired at First and Rock Island – a block south and a block west of the club. He said it was clear the first victim was hit while standing on the northeast corner of First and Rock Island.

“Here you go; that’s where it happened,” he said while point to a red stain on the sidewalk. “It didn’t happen outside my building.”

Old town resident Michael Turenne said he had just finished walking his dog, Blitz, when he heard what he thought was a vehicle backfiring twice.

He quickly figured out that the noises were gunshots.

“I heard at least seven to eight shots,” he said.

Turenne and neighbor Chris Jessup said residents of Mosley Street Place apartments often sit outside watching activity in Old Town.

Although it was too cold Friday night to do so, residents came outside after gunfire broke out.

“It was a hostile crowd, I’ll tell you that much,” Turenne said.

A concert featuring Pleasure P, a former member of the band Pretty Ricky, was the headliner at Doc Howard’s.

Turenne said he saw police officers checking the pulse of a man on the ground before paramedics arrived and took him to a hospital. Turenne said the man was lying between the parking garage and a restaurant.

Jessup pointed out blood stains on stairs leading from a patio at the apartments on the same side as the club.

Blood also was splattered near the parking garage.

The manager of the Hotel at Old Town declined to comment about the shootings but was helping guests get their cars out of the garage. A police officer was stationed at the garage, which was taped off, allowing one person in at a time. The garage was reopened after the scene was processed by police.

Police Chief Norman Williams checked out the scene with detectives.

Turenne said police knocked on the doors at his apartment building at about 3:30 a.m. “to find out what we knew.”

The 22,000-square-foot building at 252 N. Mosley has been the center of several violent incidents over the past decade. Most of them occurred around closing time for the clubs operating in the building. They include a shooting in the parking lot in 2003 that killed a 25-year-old man; a shooting in the parking lot in 2006 that wounded six people; and a stabbing outside the building in 2008 that critically injured two men and a woman in their 20s.

Doc Howard’s opened in the building in December 2009.

Shapiro said there were 1,100 customers in Doc Howard’s on Friday night, and he said the crowd dispersed long before the shooting. He said several other clubs in Old Town were closing at about the same time, and he wonders why the shooting wasn’t connected to one of them.

“We’re an easy target,” he said. “We’re the biggest boy on the block, and the biggest boy sometimes takes most of the blame.”

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