CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati police searched for suspects in a nightclub shooting that left one man dead and 15 other people injured and sent club patrons diving to the ground to dodge bullets in what they described as a chaotic and terrifying scene.
A gunfight broke out inside the crowded Cameo club early Sunday after a dispute among several patrons escalated into a shootout, authorities said. Some 200 people were inside the club near the Ohio River east of downtown Cincinnati at the time.
“What we know at this point in the investigation is that several local men got into some type of dispute inside the bar, and it escalated into shots being fired from several individuals,” Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said. It was not immediately clear how many people fired shots.
No suspects were in custody in the shooting at the club, which police said has a history of gun violence.
Club patron Mauricio Thompson described a chaotic scene in which as many as 20 shots were fired as people scrambled to get away. He said there was a fight and people were yelling for security to intervene before the gunfire began.
“Once I got outside, people coming out bloody, gunshot wounds on them, some of their friends carrying them to the car, rushing them to the hospital,” Thompson told WCPO-TV. “It was just crazy.”
Another patron told the television station that she dove to the ground outside of the nightclub to dodge bullets, and that her boyfriend climbed on top of her to protect her.
“I thought I was going to die. At that point survival skills started kicking in,” said Sherell, who preferred not to give her last name. “Once I heard the third shot — I didn’t know whether it was coming from outside, someone was shooting at the club, or whether it was coming from inside.”
Isaac said the club has its own security operation that uses detection wands and pat-downs, but that police believe several firearms somehow got inside. Four officers were working security in the club’s parking lot and some tried unsuccessfully to revive the man who died.
The club has a history of gun violence, including a shooting inside the club on New Year’s Day in 2015 and one in the parking lot in September of that year, City Manager Harry Black said.
Cameo’s Facebook page, which later was taken down, said it caters to college students on Friday nights, when anyone over 18 is allowed in, while Saturdays are “grown and sexy night” for ages 21 and older.
“Saturday night, it is a very young crowd. We have had incidents here in the past, but this is by far the worst,” Police Capt. Kim Williams said.
Authorities asked anyone with information on the shooting to come forward. Investigators were checking to see if surveillance cameras were working, Williams said.
The operator of the nightclub, Jay Rodgers, released a statement Sunday night calling the shooting, “senseless.”
“We will do everything in our power to cooperate and make sure the monsters that did this are caught and brought to justice,” said Rodgers, who added that the club would remain closed until both an internal and a police investigation are completed.