CINCINNATI (AP) — A mother of five who was wounded in the Cincinnati nightclub shooting described a chaotic scene in which she and other club patrons were frantically crawling over one another to reach the exits and said that all she could think about was her children.
One man was killed and Angel Higgins and 15 other people were injured in the shooting at the Cameo club, a popular hip-hop music spot near the Ohio river east of downtown Cincinnati. The venue’s operator says it is closing Friday.
Higgins told WCPO-TV that she had one thought going through her mind: I can’t die in this club.
The initial investigation indicated a dispute in the bar escalated into a gunfight early Sunday, Police Chief Eliot Isaac said. Police believe multiple shooters were involved, and they estimate more than 20 shots were fired. No club security footage of the shooting has emerged.
Higgins said she felt one bullet fly past her face. Soon after, another struck her in the leg and she collapsed.
“I fell and everybody was just diving on me, falling on top of me, and all I thought was, ‘I cannot die by getting smothered by all these people,'” she said.
Higgins stumbled out of the club and then drove herself to a hospital. She said police and firefighters used ambulances for those victims who were more seriously injured. Two of the injured remained in critical condition Tuesday, and three were in stable condition.
Police declined to comment on whether they had identified any possible suspects, but Isaac said they were making progress in their investigation.
Cameo club operator Julian “Jay” Rodgers released a statement late Monday saying the venue would close its doors after receiving notice to vacate from the property owner. He said Cameo had planned to move out in May because of the landlord’s planned sale of the property but will turn over the keys Friday instead. He earlier voluntarily surrendered its liquor license.
Rodgers denied that some people were allowed to bypass security checks that included metal-detection wands. Some patrons have said people could pay to avoid the long line to get into the club, which police said had some 200 people inside.
“There have been untrue reports that certain patrons were allowed to enter the club without passing through security,” Rodgers, a veteran of Cincinnati-area entertainment venues, said in his statement. “This was not permitted.”
Higgins told WCPO she thought it was likely people were getting in without security checks. She said security just looked at her ID and let her in.
Rodgers said two of four privately paid unformed Cincinnati police officers there had a clear view of security procedures. Isaac has emphasized that the officers on off-duty security detail remained outside before the shooting and that the club was responsible for its inside security.
Isaac said he was aware of reports of a security bypass line, but police hadn’t confirmed that.
City officials said Cameo had been the scene of past 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.
Ohio liquor agents said the club was cited for drug abuse and drug possession violations after an inspection following the shooting. Agents reported finding marijuana in plain view along with partially smoked marijuana in an employee-only section.
Adam Johnson of the Ohio Investigative Unit said Monday the club was cited once before, in 2015, for drug abuse.
Seewer reported from Toledo. AP researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed.