A person of interest is in custody in connection with a shooting at an east side barbershop that left three dead and seven others injured, police announced Thursday.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig said Thursday that the man, a convicted felon, was wearing body armor when he was arrested on unrelated felony charges in suburban Rochester after the shootings Wednesday. His name wasn’t immediately released.
Craig said police are working with the U.S. Attorney’s office to determine whether the man could be in violation of federal laws for being in possession of body armor.
The chief says someone shot a high-powered rifle through an open door into a backroom at the barbershop, where Craig says at least 20 people were “engaged in gambling activities.”
He said the shooting, which he called “urban terrorism,” might have been the result of an ongoing feud between the shooter and people at the gambling party, Craig said.
Craig said that police received a 911 call at 5:47 p.m. Wednesday indicating shots had been fired. He said police were on scene by 5:49 p.m.
Two men who were struck inside the shop died on the scene, police said. The third victim, a 37-year-old man, died early Thursday at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Sgt. Mike Woody said.
As bullets came in, many of the people who were gathered inside ran for their lives, taking cover at nearby businesses, including a party store across the street.
The initial investigation, Craig said, revealed that 20 to 30 people were packed into a small room at the rear of the barbershop and were gambling.
He said a man pulled up in a vehicle and started firing at a truck with a high-powered rifle. At some point, the rear door of the shop opened and the shooter began firing inside of the business. Craig said nine people were shot inside of the location.
He said at least one person inside of the barbershop returned fire.
Investigators were searching for men driving two Chevrolet Impalas – one white, one black – involved in the shoot-out along Seven Mile Road between Mound and Ryan at about 6 p.m. Investigators said a shoot-out between the cars’ occupants in an alley behind the building spilled over into the barbershop.
Police said the barbershop is known for gambling, and a dice game was taking place when the gunfire broke out. But a motive behind the shooting wasn’t clear.
Lorne Carter, 48, was smoking a cigarette against the wall of a nearby business when he said he heard about 30 to 40 shots fired around 6 p.m. near the barbershop in the 5200 block of East Seven Mile.
“It sounded rapid,” he said.
Craig said all of the victims are male, but no ages or names were released.
A distraught mother, who did not want to give her name, said she believes one of the men who was killed is her 40-year-old son. She said her three sons were in the barbershop at the time of the shooting, and one escaped and ran home to tell her and she rushed to the scene.
“I heard he’s dead. … They won’t let me up there,” she said from a gas station near the scene.
That son had gone to the business to get bus money from his brother, she said. Her other two sons made it out uninjured.
At the barber shop today, the only clear visible evidence that a shooting had happened were the news vans parked nearby and strands of yellow police tale flapping in the breeze at several spots.
A painted sign on the gray brick building says the shop was established in 1971. A handful of playing cards could be seen among some leaves outside the front door, and broken window glass from a vehicle lay in the alley behind the one-story shop. No one answered the door at Al’s, but next door at another business, a man spoke through a glass storm door, telling a reporter that “it’s over.”
He warned against taking pictures of the shop and closed the door.
Several neighbors who were out walking had heard about the shooting but few said they were in the area at the time.
But Saifur Rahman, 19, was working at a fish and chicken shop across Seven Mile at the time of the shooting.
He heard a series of shots that sounded like they came from an automatic weapon.
Three people —all male, one older and two younger — ran into his shop and locked the outer door. Rahman was behind an interior door and they began pounding on that, telling him to let them in.
He thought he was being robbed.
“It was scary, you know, ” he said.
The three also started throwing food from various shelves onto the floor and appeared to be trying to hide. They snuck out when Rahman announced he was calling 911. He said police talked to him and took his store’s surveillance tape.
Residents described the neighborhood as a good one, with people attending church and participating in a block club, but all were aware of past violence at Al’s.
“It’s a good neighborhood, just some stuff went down,” said one woman out walking her pit bull. She declined to give her name for fear of retaliation.
She said Al’s is a popular spot, with men and women, but she said that she has stayed away.
“You don’t go in shooting dice and gambling when there’s no windows,” she said.
Courtesy of USA Today