FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Officers are preparing to make arrests in connection with the suspected gang-related shootings that left two people dead and at least five others injured Saturday morning during an unauthorized party at a Texas dance studio, a police spokesman said.
Fort Worth police spokesman Mark Povero told The Associated Press arrests are imminent and that investigators believe gang activity was involved.
An unknown number of people exchanged gunfire from the studio’s parking lot and across the street around midnight Saturday. The shooting began, witnesses told police, when a man ran toward the door to exit the studio.
Officers found one victim dead outside Studio 74 in Fort Worth, and several people were transported to hospitals – one of whom died from his injuries, police said.
Laura Reyna, owner and artistic director of the studio, called it an unauthorized event. She said she didn’t even know the group of about 60 people was there until one of her instructors called her at 12:45 a.m. to report a commotion at the facility.
“I would consider it trespassing just for the fact that as the owner and operator of this facility I did not know, nor was there an exchange of any formal contract for people to be inside there,” said Reyna, who has owned the facility for four years.
An employee of the facility, Jason Moore, was working at the time and said he used a towel to compress the chest of one of the victims, who later died right outside the front door of the studio.
“He got hit in the lungs, so there was no coming back for him,” Moore said.
Moore said several members of the group were carrying guns and that he thought he heard shots fired inside as well. Reyna said Moore was unaware that the group wasn’t supposed to be at the facility.
Moore said the shooting occurred around midnight. He rushed people out through a side door of the studio, which sits on a state highway near a police station, multiple businesses and restaurants and homeless shelters and food pantries.
Broken glass from a trophy case and plastic cups covered the floor of the studio Saturday morning. Blood stains could be seen outside the building, near scattered chairs and garbage – including empty liquor bottles.
Studio 74’s website says the facility brings “dance programming to underserved communities and the general public to reach audiences and participants of all ages, abilities, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds.”
Fort Worth-based soul artist Leon Bridges has danced there, Reyna said. The walls were covered in graffiti and championship banners won by the studio’s in-house dance troupe.
“I’m very heartfelt for the family and victims,” Reyna said. “This is a place, it’s a nonprofit organization. We deal in hip hop culture and we cater to our community. It’s a safe haven … we dance, we compete. We try to stay away from events like this that happen.”
Associated Press reporter Jeff McMurray contributed from Chicago.