Shooter still at large, no signs of terrorism

CINCINNATI: A body is removed as police work at the Cameo club after a fatal shooting. — AP

WASHINGTON: Gunfire erupted in a crowded Ohio nightclub early yesterday after a personal dispute boiled over, killing one person and leaving 14 wounded as partygoers scattered into the night, authorities said. The gunman remained at large following the shooting at early yesterday at the Cameo nightclub in Cincinnati that assistant police chief Paul Neudigate said was packed with revellers. "There are no indications this incident is terrorism related," he said on Twitter.

It was unclear how many shooters were involved. Authorities initially said there were at least two, but Neudigate later tweeted that there was "only one reported shooter at this time, still investigating if others involved." The Cincinnati Police Department said there were "15 gunshot victims, one deceased." The shooting was believed to have stemmed from a dispute "between specific groups of individuals earlier in the day, escalating to the nightclub tragedy," according to a tweet from the government of the midwestern city. Sergeant Eric Franz described the aftermath to ABC News as a "large and complicated homicide scene." Police were interviewing multiple witnesses, he said.

'Grown and sexy'

According to its Facebook page, Cameo admits "grown and sexy" partygoers aged 21 and over on Saturday nights. "It was a young crowd and we have had incidents in the past, but this is the worst by far," Captain Kimberly Williams, the district's police commander, told CNN. "By the time... the shots were fired, individuals ran outside, so there was not a lot of people inside the club. I believe there was a large crowd earlier this evening, but just a lot of chaos when the shots went off," she said.

Cameo was the site of two shooting investigations in 2015, local news station WLWT reported. Someone was shot in the foot there on New Year's Day, and a shooting victim was found in the parking lot in September, WLWT said. Ohio Governor John Kasich said his office was offering help to local authorities. "You see things like this and you begin to wonder, where is it safe to go?" he said on CNN. "I've offered, of course, all state assistance that is needed in this-you know, in another terrible tragedy in our country."

Although police said there was no evidence of a terrorism connection, the attack inevitably raised memories of last year's rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. That mass shooting-which left 49 dead and 68 wounded-was the deadliest terror attack in the United States since September 11, 2001. The gunman, Omar Mateen, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State jihadist group in a 911 call to police during the assault on the Pulse nightclub.

American gun violence

But shootings have become a common feature of life in America, where the right to bear arms is protected by the US Constitution. Cincinnati, a city of 300,000 people nestled along the northern banks of the Ohio River, had 66 homicides in 2016, all but nine of them as a result of firearms. This year has seen a spike in gun violence, with 57 victims of shooting so far as of Thursday last week, compared to 31 during the same period last year.

Elsewhere in the United States, a gunman opened fire Saturday on a double-decker bus on the Las Vegas Strip, killing one person and wounding another. Police said the suspect appeared to have "mental issues." On January 6, a 26-year-old Iraq war veteran opened fire in the baggage claim area of the Fort Lauderdale, Florida airport, killing five people.

More notorious gun crimes in recent years include the rampage carried out by 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof, who shot to death nine people during a Bible study session at a historically African American church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015. And a massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults. Gunman Adam Lanza, who had a history of mental illness, also killed his mother and went on to commit suicide. The tragedy sparked calls for stricter gun control laws, but bills banning assault weapons and expanding background checks on gun purchases were defeated in the US Congress. - AFP