LITTLE ROCK — The fireworks Bryant Moore hears exploding nearby are making him jittery. The pops that pierce through the apartment walls rattle Moore, forcing him to remember what happened days earlier: the flashes of the gun. The pow pow pow.
Moore, 22, dropped to the ground as more than 50 bullets sprayed across the Power Ultra Lounge nightclub in downtown Little Rock early Saturday morning, according to police estimates. In total, 28 people were injured — 25 by gunshots — in the nation’s largest mass shooting since the Pulse nightclub attack a year earlier in Orlando.
“Like a damn movie,” Moore says, describing the scene. He was shot three times, in his thigh and in both feet, which are now wrapped with black, bootlike contraptions.
“I ain’t never been scared of no guns,” he says. “And now I’m like, damn. . . . I guess it had to take me being shot to just come to a realization that this is not a damn game. Life is not a game.”
Authorities have said all the injured people are expected to survive. Still, the lack of fatalities doesn’t make the incident less shocking. It is the third mass shooting in Arkansas this year, as many mass shootings as the state experienced in all of 2016, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
“It’s gotten a lot of attention, and I think rightfully so,” said Lt. Steven McClanahan, Little Rock Police Department spokesman. “Because 25 people shot at one scene, I mean that’s never happened in our city before.”
The shooting touched off the flurry of speculation and questions: Had Little Rock become the latest victim of terrorism? Were the state’s gun laws to blame?
Instead, city leaders say the incident appears to be a more familiar story of violent crime, similar to what other big-city mayors and police chiefs have highlighted in recent years.
Little Rock has seen a bump in violent crime over the past few months, officials say. There have been 29 homicides this year, compared with 15 at this time last year, McClanahan said Monday. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, citing preliminary data, reported this week that violent crime in the city in 2017 had increased more than 20 percent when compared with the 2016 figures from the same time period.
Saturday’s shooting unfolded about 2:30 a.m. during a performance by Finese 2Tymes, a rapper from Tennessee whose real name is Ricky Hampton. Hampton was arrested Sunday on outstanding charges of aggravated assault with a gun in an unrelated shooting in Forrest City, Ark., according to news reports.
Police say gang members were present at Saturday’s shooting, and some in attendance “have been on our radar screen,” McClanahan said.
No one has been charged in connection to the shooting.
Mayor Mark Stodola said violence in the city has been “focused primarily with two small groups of people,” describing a Hatfields-and-McCoys scenario, involving warring families. McClanahan described the situation as a bit more complex but said authorities think the city’s jump in crime can be linked to gang activity.
“We think a lot of these are second-generation gang members, that are now coming of age, and contributing to violence in our city,” he said.
Stodola said an early morning phone call about the incident on Saturday left him with a “sickening feeling in my stomach.”
He expressed concerns about “too many guns in the hands of the wrong people,” saying officials need to more vigorously monitor how felons get possession of firearms.
A law allowing concealed handgun permit holders who have taken up to eight hours of active-shooter training to carry their weapon in certain bars will take effect in September, according to the Associated Press. In this case, though, Stodola doubted the law would have mattered.
“The people who had weapons in that lounge, I’m only surmising, but I would imagine that they had those guns regardless of what the law was that was passed,” Stodola said.
He said Little Rock’s surge in violent crime is “not unlike what’s happening in other cities around the country.” He said he has spoken with other mayors who have relayed stories of what is happening in their communities.
“What drives it? Obviously, illegal activity,” he said. “Whether it’s an epidemic of illegal drugs and somebody cheating somebody out of some money, or obviously somebody disrespecting another individual.”
On Monday, there were reminders of the chaos at Power nightclub. Blue medical gloves remained outside the club. Bits of glass were on the sidewalk, and a “Notice to Vacate” sign was posted on the door. Inside, a woman’s shoe could be seen on the ground.
“I’m in Power, and my best friend just got shot,” a woman’s voice says on a 911 call from Saturday’s shooting, released to The Washington Post on Monday.
“Hello, they just shot up the club. Oh my God,” another woman tells a dispatcher, on another call.
As Moore contemplates the experience nearly two days later, he resolves to start carrying a gun when he goes out.
“I ain’t going to be in no predicament like that again,” he says.