Tempers flared and angry words filled the air at last night's town hall discussion regarding the Clubhouse Music Venue and the recent gang-related shooting that look place in its parking lot.
Angry accusations and livid tirades filled the air inside a packed meeting room at the Tempe History Museum during the 90-minute public forum on the shooting and the current investigation into the Clubhouse itself. More than 400 people crammed into the room, a majority of whom were supporting the venue and its owner Eugenia Ruven.
Ruven, who wasn't present for the meeting, was arrested and cited last Friday for allegedly failing to follow the Clubhouse's security plan. Said subject was at the heart of the town hall, as officials from the Tempe Police Department and city hall discussed at length their claim that a lack of a security presence on the night of the shooting cause the incident to occur.
In between jags of civic boosterism, recounting of police procedure, and bureaucratic rhetoric, the city's message became clear over the course of the evening: They believe the Clubhouse was at fault and they're going after the venue hard.
Tempe Police Lieutenant Mike Horn, who led the meeting, stated how the Clubhouse has failed to adhere to its security plan not only on the night of the most recent shooting, which took place during a concert by West Coast rapper Nipsey Hussle on March 2, but also after previous incidents of violence that have taken place at the venue. He also alleges that security at its security staff was wearing improper clothing and that management should have requested more of a police presence during the concert.
"We've made it very clear to the management there [of] the expectations that we had for them in providing extra security and also that they become very aware of the acts that they're bringing into their business so that they know exactly what additional security measures may be needed," Horn says. "They failed to do that recently just as they've done in the past."
Tempe city manager Charlie Meyer also spoke at the meeting about Ruven and Clubhouse management failed in their responsibilities to keep their patrons and the public safe from the criminal element.
"Tempe is a nice community that is welcome to all," Meyer says. "Due to the unformatted actions of a few, however, something as tragic as this happened."
While Meyer didn't specify whether the "few" were the suspects in the shooting or the employees of the Clubhouse, Horn was more overt in his condemnation of the Clubhouse's alleged role in the incident.
He also stated that city officials are looking into the Clubhouse's off-track betting license and reiterated that its security plan has been revoked. It was also announced that the city's Community Services Department will be holding an administrative hearing on the Clubhouse use permit on April 6. If said permit is revoked, the venue will no longer be able to operate legally.
He also stated that the management at several Tempe music venues, which he declined to name, have approached police officials about making sure their security plans are in compliance and are being followed.
The standing-room-only audience in attendance at the meeting seemed to mull all of this information over before Horn began a question-and-answer session. The crowd -- which was akin to a metal show mixed with a PTA meeting as dreadlocked and tattooed rock fans sat next to dudes dressed in polo shirts and chinos -- stayed mostly silent through the first part of the meeting, only to come alive when Horn opened things up.
One man questioned why Tempe Police's gang-enforcement unit wasn't aware that Hussle, a known member of the Rolling Sixty Crips in L.A., was performing in their city.
"It's their job to do such things," he says. "Why weren't they conscious that someone who's a member of a gang was coming to Tempe and respond accordingly?"
Logan Powell of Mesa asked why the promoter for the event, the Valley-based Force Focus Entertainment, isn't being investigated for booking Hussle at the Clubhouse.
"It feels as though the promoter who brought [Hussle] to Tempe should be share some responsibility in things," Powell stated.
Another individual, a larger gentleman sporting a Mohawk and wearing a punk t-shirt, stated out loud that Tempe's investigation was "a witch hunt."
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Probably the most attention-grabbing comments came when a local rapper known as Tha Verdict stated that there were several Tempe Police officers present in the Clubhouse's parking lot that evening and "the shooting happened anyway."
Tha Verdict, who was scheduled to open for Hussle, later told New Times after the meeting that he believes police officials are treating Ruven and the Clubhouse as scapegoats in their investigation.
"They need to have someone to blame," he says. "They haven't found the other suspects yet so someone has to be punished."