By Emily Andersen
Source The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA—Gunmen targeting a victim inside a crowded downtown nightclub early Sunday shot "somewhere in the area of a dozen or two dozen" rounds, killing a man and woman and injuring 10 others, Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman told reporters.
Officers were already near the Taboo Nightclub and Lounge, 415 Third St. SE, where they were responding to an earlier call about an incident outside. Just before 1:30 a.m., the officers saw an "exodus" of people fleeing the club, and rushed inside to find the fatalities and wounded, Jerman said.
The chief said Sunday afternoon the investigation was "fluid" and no arrests had been made. The assailants — who police believe are both men — had likely fled with the crowd. Up to about 150 people were in the club when the shooting broke out inside.
Police said they do not believe there was an ongoing threat to the public, even with the suspects at large, because the shooters appear to have had a specific target.
"We do not believe that the general population or community is at a heightened risk, since the shooter achieved his goal of reaching his victim," Jerman said in a Sunday afternoon news conference.
Police have not been able to establish a motive for the shooting.
The club, which has had private security at past events, did not have security present during the shooting, Jerman said. The club, which opened in 2019 inside the Sokol Building, was holding a "90s Bash" with a $10 cover charge at the time of the shooting, according to the club's Instagram account.
Authorities have not yet fully identified the people who were killed beyond saying they were an adult male and adult female.
Jerman said the 10 who were injured by gunfire or shrapnel ranged from life-threatening to minor wounds, with one person who was in critical condition. Officers transported some of the victims to local hospitals in squad cars.
Mod Williams, the owner of the nightclub, said in an interview with The Gazette that he doesn't know much more than what the police have publicly released.
"It's an extremely disturbing thing that happened and currently I'm just being as cooperative as I can to help the police," Williams said.
Mayor Tiffany O'Donnell expressed thanks to the first responders to the scene and her condolences to families of the victims.
"Shock, anger, grief, disappointment: just a few of the emotions that I'm sure we all feel today, and I can personally say as a mother, my heart goes out to those moms and dads today who are having the worst day of their lives," O'Donnell said at the news conference. In a statement earlier, she said the shooting "is not who were are" and called on citizens to help quell violence.
"We must head off incidents like this before they happen. That means respecting one another, resolving issues peacefully and holding ourselves accountable," her statement said. "That's how we build the safe and welcoming community we all want for Cedar Rapids."
Police were interviewing witnesses Sunday and called on anyone present at the club at the time of the shooting or with knowledge of the incident to contact Cedar Rapids police at 319-286-5491 or Linn County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-272-7463.
"It's not just the police that are working to solve this. This is a community issue. ... So, if anybody has information, if anybody was there, if anybody was told that a friend was there and a friend witnessed, please come forward and give us that information. You're identification is going to be protected. You may remain anonymous," Jerman said.
Police were still on the scene Sunday morning outside the club. The area in front of the building and the alleyway next to it were blocked off with police tape. Four Cedar Rapids squad cars were visible on scene, two of which were crime scene units.
Jerman said various police and city programs are helping to address gun violence in the city, including the Police Community Action Team and the Group Violence Intervention Initiative.
"I remain livid and angered at the continued and blatant disregard and lack of respect for human life that continues," Jerman told reporters. "That said, I want to reassure the residents of this city that Cedar Rapids is a safe city. The vast majority of our violence and gun-related crime is committed by a very small segment of our population."
The shootings mark the fourth and fifth homicides so far this year in Cedar Rapids. The others are:
- Jan. 27: Cordal R. Lewis, 19, was found fatally shot in the 300 block of 31st Street Drive SE.
- Jan. 28: Kavon Iberheem Johnson, 22, was found fatally shot in a parking lot at Cedar Valley Park, 2250 Blakely Blvd. SE, south of Otis Road SE.
- April 2: Emily Elizabeth Leonard, 22, was found dead in a southwest quadrant home. Police believe she was bludgeoned with a board, and arrested Arthur J. Flowers, 62, for the death.
Marissa Payne and John McGlothen of The Gazette contributed.
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