Detroit — In response to the Noel Night shooting that wounded four teenagers, Police Chief James Craig expressed concern that “large groups of unsupervised teens” were out and about that evening.
While at past Noel Night events, teens would be dropped off outside and go to the indoor events, this year’s event saw large groups hanging out outdoors.
The gunfire affected not only the lives of the four teens hit — 14 and 16-year-old boys, a 17-year-old girl, and a 19-year-old man — but the 16-year-old boy now jailed and accused of pulling the trigger.
“It’s an unfortunate situation that should not have happened,” Craig said. “This is about keeping children safe.”
It started on Friday after two groups fought at a championship high school game, Craig said. At Noel Night, the two groups met up and there was some "pushing and shoving" before the gunfire.
He pondered Monday whether a curfew for minors, along the lines of the curfew for the Fourth of July Fireworks, might be appropriate for future Noel Nights, but also suggested that an adult presence to chaperone dropped-off children might work.
Detroit police have sought charges. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office is expected to make a decision on charges by Saturday.
Craig said that when he responded to the shooting, “hundreds of teens” were in the area without adult supervision.
“I think it’s time to start that conversation,” he said. “Had there been a curfew, would this have happened? Probably not.”
Police responded to the shooting in enough time to transport a shooting victim to an area hospital. The 19-year-old male victim, though, had to actually pass police and EMS en route to taking a bus home. He was only identified as a shooting victim after finally appearing at a hospital for his graze wounds.
He and the other victims are all in stable condition at last report.
The shooting led police to close portions of the attraction that draws tens of thousands and fills Midtown with performers and families. Participating venues, like the Detroit Institute of Arts, were emptied.
On Monday, a Noel Night visitor who stood just feet away from the gunfire recalled what she saw that night.
Melissa Weckler, 40, was at Noel Night with her boyfriend and another couple. She’d grown up attending the event and has attended the last several. This year’s event was unremarkable from the others for most of the night.
“Tons of people out of all sorts: families, couples, everybody,” Weckler said. “Definitely a heavy police presence.”
The group was on John R at East Warren, outside of the Michigan Science Center. Groups of teenagers appeared in the area.
“It was rowdy,” Weckler said. “It got a little bit uncomfortable.”
Then, in a dark section of John R, a fight broke out, and a circle formed around the combatants, she said. Soon that circle broke and started running toward the two couples.
“Oh my gosh,” Weckler said she thought at the time. “Here we go.”
Then, Weckler said, “it just started lighting up” — gunfire.”
Weckler says she had a view of the shooter’s back.
Weckler and her boyfriend ran from the danger. The other couple hid behind a vehicle. The two groups were able to find each other about five minutes later.
“I live in the city. I love my city,” Weckler said. “And I know her weaknesses. This showed we have great strides to make,” she said.
On Sunday morning, hours after the gunfire, several people near the scene said the shooting wouldn’t alter their plans to visit the city.
Others on Twitter called for calm and seemed inured to the inevitability of shootings or other incidents in crowded places these days.
“This kind of (incident), you can’t let fear stop you,” said Alan Manjarrez, 25, of Lapeer, who was with his girlfriend, Shawna Walker, hoping to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, near where the shooting occurred the night before.
“It’s not like Las Vegas,” Manjarrez said of the mass shooting that targeted random victims.
But Detroit does have the dubious distinction of being the most violent city in the nation, according to the FBI.
Sue Mosey of Midtown Detroit Inc., the organizer of Noel Night, said Sunday “We have not made any decision at this time about future Noel Nights,” adding that it would be a decision for the board.
Staff writers Sarah Rahal and George Hunter contributed.