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American Coney hires off-duty cops after shooting

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

It was a shocking sight for the late-night crowd at the American Coney Island in downtown Detroit this month: a large brawl followed by gunfire.

City police say a man opened fire at the popular eatery early Jan. 8, wounding a worker. In the aftermath of the incident, owner Grace Keros hired secondary police officers to work shifts there.

It was a shocking sight for the late-night crowd at the American Coney Island in downtown Detroit this month: a large brawl followed by gunfire.

“I’m paying for it but I’m happy to do it,” she said while standing outside the restaurant Wednesday night. “We’re a family business and this isn’t going to happen here at my place.”

To generate tips from the public, investigators this week released surveillance footage of the alleged gunman and his companions, who “are also wanted for questioning in this case,” police said Wednesday. “They are to be considered persons of interest.”

At about 3:10 a.m. Jan. 8, employees at the eatery in the 100 block of West Lafayette spotted several males who “began assaulting a group of females that were inside the restaurant,” investigators said in a statement.

The group had been harassing women waiting for the restroom, Keros said. Then the scene turned chaotic.

“When the victim, along with other employees, attempted to stop them, the suspects began assaulting the employees,” police said.

Surveillance footage released Wednesday showed a melee: a group pummeling a man in a white apron atop a table, hurling chairs across the room.

At one point during the scuffle, “an armed suspect entered the business,” officials said. The man was filmed standing near the table as the fighting escalated wearing black and red ball cap, a red polo shirt, blue jeans and black-and-white gym shoes.

As his companions started to leave, police said, “he pulled out a gun and shot the 19-year-old victim.”

The employee suffered a non-fatal injury, according to the statement. He is recovering and “fine” as of Wednesday evening, Keros said.

Still, the reality of the shooting means off-duty uniformed Detroit police officers become as familiar a sight as the famous coneys at her restaurant tables. “They will be here — they will be working,” she said. “I’m going to protect my employees and my customers.”

Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call Detroit Police Third Precinct Detectives at (313) 596-1340 or (313) 596-5342. Anonymous tips can also be left through the DPD Connect app or Crime Stoppers of Michigan at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.