CLEVELAND, Ohio — Police are investigating the possibility that an argument between a man and woman escalated into shootout that injured seven people inside what officials called an illegal motorcycle club in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood.
Cleveland police spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia said investigators are still in the early stages of the investigation and are tracking down witnesses across the area to get a full accounting of what happened inside The Spot Night Club.
But she said detectives so far believe a man and woman argued about 3 a.m. Sunday inside the club on Pearl Road near Brookpark Road. The man fired a single gunshot and multiple others inside the club pulled out guns and started firing, Ciaccia said.
Bullets hit four men and three women, all of whom ended up being driven to the hospital. All seven— between the ages of 20 and 40— so far have survived, Ciaccia said. No arrests have been made, and no other information was made available about their conditions.
Ward 13 Councilman Kevin Kelley, whose ward includes the club, said the occupants leased a portion of the building at 5100 Pearl Road as a private motorcycle club. Since it opened sometime in January, he said it’s operated not as a private club, but as an afterhours club. The club occupies a back corner lot that once served as a game room for kids called Play to Win Café.
He said he’s been working to get the club shut down for weeks.
Kelley said he sent a notice to the club owners last week that notified them that the next time police showed up to the club, the building owners would be on the hook to pay the bill for police services.
“It’s an illegal motorcycle club where there’s been nothing but guns and alcohol since they got there,” Kelley said.
Kelley, who did not know the name of the motorcycle club, said Second District police detectives watched the club for several weeks and believe many of the people who frequent the club bring guns. The club’s occupants are not required to have a liquor permit because they are operating as a private social club, but Kelley said he does not believe the club is private.
“It’s a terrible situation,” Kelley said. “It’s fortunate that no one died.”
A man who showed up to the club with several others about 4 p.m. Sunday said he’d return a call to a reporter once he figured out what happened. A call to one of the building owners was not immediately returned.
Cleveland police have been called to the club 21 times since Jan. 1, including eight times last weekend.
Twice people called police to report gunfire at or near the club— on New Year’s Day and on March 21, the same day another person called police to report a person was threatening someone with a weapon.
Police arrested a 27-year-old woman outside the club Jan. 24 on charges of carrying a concealed weapon, according to court records.
Others called police to report mass gatherings, suspicious activity, drag racing and large and unruly crowds, according to the records.
Sunday’s shooting marked the worst mass shooting in Cleveland since a March 8, 2020 shooting at a motorcycle club.
One person died in that shooting and 17 others suffered gunshot wounds. Police said the shooting happened at an Omens Motorcycle Club party and that several other motorcycle clubs and gangs, including the Zulus and Wheels of Soul attended that party. That shooting remains unsolved.
In July, a fight between members of the Hells Angels and Mongols ended with a Hells Angels member shot to death and a Zulu stabbed and a man died in a shootout at the Satan’s Sidekicks clubhouse on Cleveland’s East Side in 2018.
The shooting also happened seven days after another shootout — inside My Friends Restaurant, a diner on Detroit Avenue and West 117th Street— left two dead and the two gunmen wounded.
Those shootings are part of a trend so far in 2021 that so far show shootings and killings in Cleveland are up compared to 2020, one of the most violent in recent history.
More shootings happened so far in 2021 than through the same time frame last year. Cleveland recorded 256 shootings, including gunfire where no one is injured, as of March 6, according to the most recent data available from the city. That’s more than double the amount in 2020, when there were 127 through the same time frame.
Cleveland ended 2020 year with 1,463 shootings, up from 936 in 2019, and 189 homicides, the most since 1982. There has been 30 homicides so far in 2021, compared with 23 through March 28, 2020.
Gun seizures also soared last year and through the first part of 2021. Police seized 2,466 in 2020, up 25 percent from 2019. So far in 2021, police seized 597 guns, an 85 percent increase over the same time period in 2020.
Cleveland City Councilman Blaine Griffin said Sunday’s shooting underscores the availability and accessibility of guns in the city.
“Until we get strong actions from the federal and state government, we’re going to see incidents like this that result in mass casualties,” Griffin said. “Fortunately, no one was killed that I’m aware of. We need action from the state and federal government.”