Boy, 16, in custody over Noel Night shooting
Detroit — A 16-year-old boy is in custody in the Saturday Noel Night shooting that injured four people.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig is scheduled to hold a press conference at the event at 1 p.m. Monday.
On Saturday, the festivities of the 45th Noel Night were marred by the sounds of gunshots as a crowd, including children, joined the activities.
The shooting led police to shut down the popular 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.
At the end of the gunfire, four teenagers had been shot: a 14-year-old boy, a 16-year-old boy, a 17-year-old girl, and a 19-year-old man. All, at last report, are in stable condition.
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.
Detroit Chamber Of Commerce officials did not respond to a phone call. A city representative also did not respond a call to ask about security at downtown venues.
News of the shooting quickly spread on social media.
“Don’t let one incident scare you off,” tweeted one Metro Detroiter after the gunfire was reported.
Other tweeted: “Hey: people didn’t say “this is why I don’t go to Las Vegas” when 50 people were killed. So please don’t say that about Detroit.”
The shooting shut down the event about half-way into the 45th Noel Night.
At about 7:30 p.m., police said they received reports of gunfire and they moved quickly to close off surrounding streets, end the activities and empty participating sites.
“We had just left the DIA going towards the Historical Museum when people began running from behind us to the grass area,” said Farah Hammoud. “I saw a girl crying and running into her boyfriends arms but everyone just said shots fired so we booked it.”
Detroit police initially said three people were shot. A fourth victim who was treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening gunshot wounds told investigators he saw a suspect fire a weapon.
Police said the 19-year-old man took himself to a hospital with graze wounds to his hand and lower leg, said Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood.
Kirkwood said the fourth victim reported seeing the suspect fire his weapon into the ground near John R and Farnsworth, where the shooting occurred.
For Paul Reynolds, 50, of Chelsea and companion Elaine Frydrych, 48, of Royal Oak news of the shooting sparked a debate about whether to stick to the plan to visit the DIA, eat at HopCat, and ride the QLine streetcar for the first time.
Frydrych wasn’t so sure. Reynolds was.
“I’m more likely to go” somewhere after a bad event, Reynolds said. “No one is going to control my movements.”
Frydrych said she worked for decades for Comerica in downtown Detroit. She heard stories of colleagues being mugged.
Reynolds said that’s life in a big city.
“Any big city, stuff happens,” Reynolds said. “You can’t let it control you.”
Detroit police Assistant Chief Arnold Williams said police believe five to seven shots were fired.
“There are groups of small disturbances, similar to last year,” said Williams. “Last year, we had one fight that broke out which was manageable.”
Police on Sunday said they were interviewing victims and searching for suspects.
Wayne State University alerted students of the shooting: “3 people injured and transported to hospital.” They warned students to avoid the area.
John Tsakos of Royal Oak said he was inside the DIA when the shooting took place.
“I was on my way to the music activities when I stopped by the cafeteria for some food,” said Tsakos, 54.
“Then I heard a lady say there was a shooter. I told my friend that I heard there was a shooter and he said, ‘Nah.’ Next thing I know, I’m throwing my plate away and there are people running and pushing us into the kitchen.”
He said a crowd was forced into the kitchen and told to duck down.
“Then they shoved us out at Farnsworth Street, where the shooting happened,” said Tsakos. “I didn’t know what to think. You don’t know what’s going on and no one’s telling you anything. I just thought I hope the shooter doesn’t come in here.”
It wasn’t the first time an incident had marred a Detroit event. A shooting on June 6 during the fireworks show had injured three people.
Still, Twitter users said, the latest incident shouldn’t give Detroit a black eye.
“To be clear: Detroit is a great and safe place to be. Noel Night is a terrific event. We have a great city. One knucklehead with a pistol doesn’t define us!”
Another person in a tweet bemoaned the shooting and the effect it could have on those who head to the city: “Why can’t it be one Detroit event where someone doesn’t have to go home injured ... especially Noel night, Noel night was supposed to be a time to come together as a city and celebrate the holidays.”