Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac on Sunday identified the deceased man as O’Bryan Raphael Spikes, 27, of Winton Hills. He did not provide any further information about Spikes except that his family had been notified.
Sherell Johnson, a Cincinnati native, came down from Chicago last week for spring break to visit family. She said Sunday that she and her sister decided to go to Cameo with their boyfriends and arrived at the club around 12:30 a.m. Sunday.
By then, Johnson said, the line to get in was still long, and a security officer at the door “was just taking money. He wasn’t patting them down (for weapons),” Johnson said. “He was just accepting the money, telling people, this is the no-wait line, they were paying $40 to $60 to get in that line.”
While standing in line, Angel Cruz, Johnson’s boyfriend, said he “had a bad feeling” about the situation and went to leave. The couple discovered their car was boxed in by another vehicle. Johnson went to the door to get some help.
At close to 1:30 a.m., an off-duty police officer at the club’s front door went inside to assist the couple, “and that’s when the shooting started.”
Cruz said he heard between 15 and 18 shots; Johnson thought it closer to 20. Immediately, Johnson said, people fled the club in a panic. She dropped to the ground, and Cruz lay on top of her until the tide of people ebbed. Then they went to their car, which now had a path to leave.
“We left Chicago to get away from all that,” Cruz said.
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac speaks alongside mayor John Cranley speaks during a news conference at police headquarters regarding a fatal shooting at the Cameo Nightclub, Sunday, March 26, 2017, in Cincinnati. At least two people opened fire inside a crowded nightclub early Sunday morning, killing one person and wounding more than a dozen others in what authorities described as a chaotic scene.
At a news conference Sunday morning at police headquarters Downtown, Mayor John Cranley called the shooting “this heinous crime.”“People were just going to have a good time, and they got shot. That is totally unacceptable,” Cranley said.
Isaac said police are looking for more than one shooter, and the mayor and Isaac urged anyone with information about the shooting or the shooters to contact police. Isaac would not describe the progress of the effort to find the shooters except that the investigation was in its early hours.
Isaac said the East End club, managed by Cincinnati entertainment mainstay Julian Rodgers, employed security guards who used hand-held metal detectors to ensure that no guns were brought into the club. Nevertheless, more than one person did bring a gun into the club, and how that happened is part of the investigation, Isaac said.
Two people were in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, said spokeswoman Kelly Martin. Seven other people were treated for injuries, and at least five of them had been treated and released by noon Sunday.
“We are the region’s Level 1 trauma center, so we prepare and train for situations like this and hope they never happen,” Martin said.
Two other gunshot victims were treated and released at Bethesda North Hospital, said spokesman Joe Kelley. One gunshot patient was taken to Mercy Health-Anderson Hospital and was treated and released, said spokeswoman Nanette Bentley. Two gunshot victims were treated and released from the Christ Hospital.
Isaac said first responders had difficulty getting to the club because patrons who had filled the parking lot were trying to leave the scene quickly. Sgt. Eric Franz said several victims tried to drive themselves to a hospital. At least two cars were abandoned on Kellogg Avenue when drivers decided they needed paramedics to complete the trip to the hospital.
Gov. John Kasich said the state would provide any support the city needed. “Saddened to learn about last night’s shooting in Cincinnati. Our prayers are with the victims and families of all of those involved.,” Kasich tweeted.
Local restaurateur Jeff Ruby said on Twitter he was offering a $10,000 reward for anyone providing information leading to an arrest.
The club, on its Facebook page, says it is provides “excitement and entertainment to the tri-state.” The club hosts College Fridays that cater to a youthful crowd, when the minimum age is 18. Saturdays are “21+ grown and sexy night,” the Facebook page says.
The incident is the worst mass shooting for total number of victims so far in 2017, according to data from Gunviolencearchive.com.
There have been at least nine mass shootings (defined as having at least four victims) in Cincinnati since 2013. The most recent was Feb. 28, when six people were shot at an apartment building in Northside.
The worst mass shooting in recent Cincinnati history was on Aug. 21, 2015, when two people were killed and five injured in a shooting at the Eagles in Madisonville. One person died and seven were injured in a July 2016 shooting at a bar in Hamilton, a suburb.
Earlier Sunday, City Manager Harry Black, who was out of town and traveling back to Cincinnati, issued a statement that the shooting arose because of a dispute “between two specific groups or individuals earlier in the day, escalating and ultimately leading to this tragedy.”
Black added: “Cameo club has a history of gun violence including a shooting inside the club on New Year’s Day 2015 and a shooting in the parking lot in September of the same year.”
Isaac said that at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, “our emergency communication section began receiving calls that shots had been fired with injuries inside the Cameo nightclub,” at 4601 Kellogg Avenue, along the Ohio River.
Earlier Sunday, Franz described the club as “a chaotic scene. The club was completely packed.”
Franz said four off-duty officers were working parking lot security at the Cameo at the time of the shooting. Two were at the front door and heard the shots. The officers gave first aid to the victim who died, Franz said.
At the Sunday morning news conference, Isaac said body cameras are not yet being used when police officers work off-duty.
Cranley explicitly said there appears to be no connection to international terrorism in the shooting. “But to the victims, what difference does it make? They have been terrorized by gun violence, and they are innocent victims. … This is a tragedy that has struck other communities, and now it has struck Cincinnati.”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has been working with the local officials in the investigation, Cranley and Isaac said. Cranley also said that in a morning phone call, Gov. John Kasich had offered state resources to solve the crime.
Local FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren says the agency has offered assistance to CPD, but it’s unclear whether the local police have accepted the offer.
Earlier Sunday, one man who had been inside the club described a “big brawl” before at least 20 shots were fired.
“It was a big gun because you heard it over the music,” said Mauricio Thompson, who said he’s from Cleveland. “Everybody’s running. Everybody scattered to get out of the club.”
Thompson added people “were yelling for security for a long time before” anyone responded.
Cincinnati mayoral candidate Rob Richardson said on Twitter: “This shooting hits close to home. I have younger family members who have attended this Cameo on a regular basis.
Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said in a statement: “While we are still learning the details surrounding this horrific tragedy, we thank our first responders for acting quickly and providing critical care for those at the scene. Jane and I extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families. My office stands ready to help them and our law enforcement authorities in any way we can.”
The Rev. Peterson Mingo of Evanston’s Christ Temple Church said that he and other leaders of the African-American community will be working over the next few days to ease tensions, trying to prevent any retaliations.
“This is just crazy … the community is in an uproar,” he said. “We’ll be out there talking and listening to folks. But no one wants this kind of thing to happen – we all want to feel safe.”
He also said that individuals appeared to be more willing than usual to work with police to find those responsible.
“There are a lot of people distancing themselves from this and don’t want to be tied to it, so they are letting people know who was associated with it,” Mingo said. “People have been giving us names and we’re sending them to the police, and they say they’re cooperating.”