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CINCINNATI – A Cincinnati nightclub operator denies that some patrons were allowed to bypass security checks that included metal-detection wands before a gunbattle erupted, killing one man and injuring 16 other people.
Julian "Jay" Rodgers rejected claims that people could pay to avoid the long line to get into the club without being checked. Police estimate 200 people were inside early Sunday when a dispute escalated into a gunfight in which more than 20 shots were fired by an unknown number of shooters in the popular club near the Ohio River east of downtown Cincinnati.
"There have been untrue reports that certain patrons were allowed to enter the club without passing through security," Rodgers, a veteran operator of Cincinnati-area entertainment venues, said in a statement late Monday. "This was not permitted."
Rodgers said two of four privately paid uniformed Cincinnati police officers there had a clear view of security procedures and helped "with the flow of the lines."
Police Chief Eliot Isaac has emphasized that the officers working off-duty security details remained outside before the shooting and that the club was responsible for its inside security. Isaac said he was aware of reports of a security bypass line, but police hadn't confirmed that.
No club security footage of the shooting has emerged. Police declined to comment on whether they had identified any possible suspects, but Isaac said they were making progress in their investigation. No arrests have yet been made.
One of the wounded patrons, Angel Higgins, told WCPO-TV she thought it was likely people were getting in without security checks. She said security just looked at her ID and let her in.
The mother of five described a chaotic scene in which people were frantically crawling over one another to reach the exits. She said her one thought was: I can't die in this club.
"All I was thinking about was my kids," Higgins said. "Am I going to make it up out of here?"
Higgins said she felt one bullet fly past her face. Soon after, another struck her in the leg and she collapsed.
She stumbled out of the club and then drove herself to a hospital. Police and firefighters used ambulances for those victims who were more seriously injured. Two of the injured remained in critical condition Tuesday, and three were in stable condition.
The Hamilton County coroner's office said Tuesday that O'Bryan Spikes, the 27-year-old man killed in the shooting, died from a single gunshot to the chest.
WLWT-TV reported plans for a Tuesday evening prayer vigil for Spikes and other shooting victims at the Cameo site.
Rodgers said Cameo had planned to move out in May because of the landlord's planned sale of the property but will instead close its door for good Friday. He earlier voluntarily surrendered its liquor license.
City officials said Cameo had been the scene of past violence, including a shooting inside the club on New Year's Day in 2015 and one in the parking lot in September of that year.
Ohio liquor agents said the club was cited for drug use and drug possession violations after an inspection following Sunday's shooting. Agents reported finding marijuana in plain view along with partially smoked marijuana in an employee-only section.
Adam Johnson of the Ohio Investigative Unit said Monday the club was cited once before, in 2015, for drug abuse.
Seewer reported from Toledo. AP researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed.