DETROIT – A convicted felon who was wearing body armor when police arrested him in a Detroit suburb will be questioned in an investigation into the fatal shooting of three men in a back gambling room of an east side barbershop.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig described the man as a person of interest in Wednesday evening's shooting at Al's Barber Shop that left six other people wounded. Speaking at a Thursday news conference at police headquarters, Craig said the bloodshed may have stemmed from an ongoing feud.
Craig did not name the person of interest and provided few details about the arrest. He said Rochester police picked up the man north of Detroit without incident on an unrelated felonious assault charge.
"Police wear body armor. Why would a community member be driving around in body armor?" said Craig, who described the latest mass shooting in Detroit as "urban terrorism."
Craig said 20 to 30 people were gambling in a tiny back room at the barbershop in a strip mall shortly before 6 p.m. when shots were fired from a high-powered rifle through an open back door.
When the gunfire began, the gamblers tried to escape the room through a door that led back into the barbershop, but that the jam of bodies prevented them from escaping.
"The shooter struck nine of the individuals inside the location," Craig said, adding that many people in the room were armed and at least one returned fire.
"Officers were able to develop information that there was an ongoing feud between a particular individual and several members of the gambling party," the chief said.
Craig declined to say whether police think the person of interest is the shooter. But he would say that the shooter is suspected in at least two other violent crimes.
Two of Wednesday's shooting victims died inside the gambling room. The third died later at a hospital. The conditions of the survivors were not available.
A witness told police that the shooter pulled into a rear alley and fired shots at someone in a pickup truck. He then got out of the car and began shooting into the open rear door of the barbershop.
Wednesday night police said they were seeking two vehicles believed to have been involved in the shooting.
Lorne Carter told the Detroit Free Press that he was smoking a cigarette against the wall of a nearby business when he heard what sounded like 30 to 40 rapid shots.
Detroit has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. Including Wednesday night's barbershop slayings, 289 criminal homicides have been committed so far this year in Detroit.
Criminal homicides accounted for 386 of the 461 death investigations in 2012.
"Anytime you have ... shootings of nine, it certainly does rise up as one of Detroit's more violent incidents," Craig said.
Craig said one person was shot and three others wounded during a shooting in October 2012 on the city's west side. Seven teenagers -- including five students at Cody Ninth Grade Academy -- were shot and wounded while waiting at a bus stop near that school in June 2009.