Champions shooting was gang-related, attorney says; City may shut down the business

A fatal shooting at Champions Sports Bar early Aug. 8 was gang-related, according to Champions’ attorney.

The 12:30 a.m. shooting at Lake & Blaisdell left a 51-year-old man dead and another person wounded. One of the victims died several hours later at Hennepin County Medical Center, according to a news release. The second victim’s gunshot wound was not life-threatening.

Police don’t have anyone in custody in connection with the incident. Homicide investigators are assigned to the case.

Champions’ Attorney Ed Matthews did not provide further information on the shooting, and said the city shares blame for the incident. He said the former 5th Precinct inspector stopped allowing officers to work off-duty hours at Champions, in retaliation for the owner’s complaints about drug dealing at the nearby bus stop.

“That prohibition is one of the factors in last-night’s tragic gang-related shooting,” Matthews said. “We still have gang activity, and the bar wants off-duty police officers.”

In response, City Attorney Susan Segal said spreading the blame is “outrageous.” She said the Minneapolis Police Department has a decades-old policy that does not allow off-duty officers to work inside any bars, although it does allow officers to work outside bars.

“In fact, the City has attempted to get Champions to establish stronger safety measures, and one of our recommendations is that the bar hire more off-duty officers to work outside the bar,” she said in a statement. “Champions has not agreed to take the necessary steps to increase safety, so we’ve been forced to proceed with the process to revoke its business license.”

Prior to the shooting, Minneapolis city staff were trying to shut down the bar. Staff took action in January to revoke Champions’ liquor license, documenting a history of criminal activity on the premises. A full hearing at the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings is scheduled for early October, according to the city.

Champions, in turn, filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis last winter, alleging defamation and unfair citations. Matthews said a judge has instructed the parties to be trial-ready by April.

Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call the Minneapolis Police Department tip line at 612-692-8477.