DETROIT — A person of interest is in custody in connection with a shooting at a Detroit barber shop that left three dead and six others injured, police announced today.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig said a man was taken into custody in Rochester, Mich., after the shooting Wednesday night and is being held on an unrelated felonious assault charge. He said the man, at the time he was arrested, was wearing body armor.
According to a spokesman for the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office, the three men killed in the shooting are: Bryan Williams, 29; Joezell Williams, 61; and Kevin Perryman, 40. All died from multiple gunshot wounds, according to the office.
The shooting happened at Al’s Place Barber Shop and might have been the result of an ongoing feud between the shooter and people at the gambling party, Craig said.
He called the shooting “urban terrorism.”
Craig said that police received a 911 call at 5:47 p.m. EST Wednesday indicating shots had been fired. He said police were on scene by 5:49 p.m.
The initial investigation, Craig said, revealed that 20 to 30 people were packed into a small room at the rear of the barbershop and were gambling.
He said a man pulled up in a vehicle and started firing at a truck with a high-powered rifle. At some point, the rear door of the shop opened and the shooter began firing inside of the business. Craig said nine people were shot inside of the location.
He said at least one person inside of the barbershop returned fire.
Investigators were searching for men driving two Chevrolet Impalas — one white, one black — involved in the shootout along Seven Mile Road between Mound and Ryan at about 6 p.m. Investigators said a shootout between the cars’ occupants in an alley behind the building spilled over into the barbershop. People fled for cover at neighboring businesses.
Police said the barbershop is known for gambling, and a dice game was taking place when the gunfire broke out. But a motive behind the shooting wasn’t clear.
Craig said police are working with the U.S. Attorney’s office to determine whether the man in custody could be in violation of federal laws for being in possession of body armor.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said the federal government is working with the Detroit Police Department to solve the barber shop shooting through the so-called Detroit One partnership.
According to McQuade, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been on the scene today collecting and analyzing ballistics evidence. She did not say whether the suspect will be federally charged, stating only that her office is reviewing the case.
“Cases like this one are a high priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and all of our Detroit One partners because of their damaging impact on public safety,” McQuade told the Detroit Free Press in an email. “We typically coordinate with the Wayne County prosecutor’s Office to determine whether a case should be charged federally, depending on the facts of the case, available charges and sentencing options.”
Despite a recent spate of violence — including the barbershop shooting and the fatal shooting of a Wayne State University law student — Craig said homicides are down.
According to police, there have been 289 criminal homicides so far this year, down from 331 during the same time period in 2012.
At the barber shop today, the only clear visible evidence that a shooting had happened were the news vans parked nearby and strands of yellow police tale flapping in the breeze at several spots.
A painted sign on the gray brick building says the shop was established in 1971. A handful of playing cards could be seen among some leaves outside the front door, and broken window glass from a vehicle lay in the alley behind the one-story shop. No one answered the door at Al’s, but next door at another business, a man spoke through a glass storm door, telling a reporter that “it’s over.”
He warned against taking pictures of the shop and closed the door.
Several neighbors who were out walking had heard about the shooting, but few said they were in the area at the time.
But Saifur Rahman, 19, was working at a fish and chicken shop across Seven Mile at the time of the shooting.
He heard a series of shots that sounded like they came from an automatic weapon.
Three people — all male, one older and two younger — ran into his shop and locked the outer door. Rahman was behind an interior door and they began pounding on that, telling him to let them in.
He thought he was being robbed.
“It was scary, you know,’’ he said.
The three also started throwing food from various shelves onto the floor and appeared to be trying to hide. They left when Rahman announced he was calling 911. He said police talked to him and took his store’s surveillance tape.
Residents described the neighborhood as a good one, with people attending church and participating in a block club, but all were aware of past violence at Al’s.
“It’s a good neighborhood, just some stuff went down,” said one woman out walking her pit bull. She declined to give her name for fear of retaliation.
She said Al’s is a popular spot, with men and women, but she said that she has stayed away.
“You don’t go in shooting dice and gambling when there’s no windows,” she said.