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Spokane music venue punished following shootings

Police suspend license of Knitting Factory

Owners of the Knitting Factory said they are working with police to fight gang violence in the wake of two shootings Monday.

The gunfire prompted Spokane police Chief Frank Straub to suspend the popular concert venue’s entertainment license after several fights spilled into downtown streets in the past year.

No one was killed after two people were shot just after 2:15 a.m. in a parking lot across the street from the Knitting Factory.

Two more people were shot about 30 minutes later outside an apartment complex at 1719 N. Maple St.

Straub said both shootings were gang-related, but whether they are connected is still under investigation.

He announced the concert venue’s effective shutdown just after 11 a.m. Monday, citing four shootings related to Knitting Factory incidents in the past year and an “excessive” amount of other police and medical calls at the venue.

“We were in the Knitting Factory only a few weeks ago after another shooting talking to them about how we can’t allow this type of behavior downtown,” Straub said. “We’re not going to tolerate this type of behavior in any one of our neighborhoods, let alone downtown.”

After months of talking tough about reducing violent crime, Monday’s announcement was Straub’s most public move toward that goal. In the past month, he said, the department has evicted several people from residences that the department considered problematic.

“What we have is problem people, problem places and problem activities,” Straub said. “We know who the problem people are, we know (what) those activities are and we know where those places are.”

City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said the city suspended the Knitting Factory’s entertainment license. Police play a part in granting licenses and have the power to pull them.

The city notified the venue owners of the suspension, which only affects concerts and other live entertainment acts.

“If someone wants to have a drink there, they still can,” Feist said. “This doesn’t shut the business down. They cannot have a concert … until these things are resolved.”

Feist said the owners recently signed a “voluntary compliance agreement” with the Police Department to “deal with some of the security issues.”

“This is not the first time we have talked to the Knitting Factory about issues that have been going on there,” she said.

Straub said the Knitting Factory has 20 days to appeal the decision. It is possible the venue could reopen.

“They’re going to have to demonstrate to us that they’re serious,” Straub said. “We were there a few weeks ago talking to them and they promised us they were going to exercise some thoughtfulness somehow in their patrons and the activities that were going on in there. Clearly they didn’t.”

Parent company Knitting Factory Entertainment released a statement Monday evening announcing the cancellation of only one event, a rap and hip-hop concert scheduled for Friday.

“We have strong security measures in place to ensure the safety of both our patrons and performing artists while attending and performing shows at the Knitting Factory,” Chief Operating Officer Greg Marchant said in the statement. “While it’s far more difficult to control what might happen outside the venue – and in this case, a parking lot not owned or controlled by the Knitting Factory – we are working with the Spokane Police Department, the Mayor’s office and the city to both cooperate fully with the investigation of the shootings and to do all we can to contribute to a culture of non-violence in music and entertainment.”

Sunday night’s event at the Knitting Factory was a third-party rental event that was open to the public.

Held by local nightlife group T.A.S.T.Y., the event was a Valentine’s Day dance featuring several disc jockeys.

Event coordinator Drew Williams said there were about 1,000 people attending the 18-and-over party, which was in its fourth year in the city.

“It’s one of our biggest parties of the year,” he said.

The last attendees left around 1:40 a.m., he said, about a half hour before the first shooting was reported.

“Inside was actually really great,” Williams said. “I didn’t hear of any confrontations inside the venue at all.”

Williams added that the Knitting Factory provided about 15 security personnel for the event, and every time he checked in with them throughout the night he was told there were no problems.

Straub would not comment on what happened inside the concert venue that led to the shooting, citing the ongoing investigation.

He said the victims, so far identified only as men, are not being as cooperative “as they should be.”

No suspects have been named, although Straub said police are familiar with the gangs they believe are involved.

He indicated that both shootings may have been preventable if someone had called police before the situations escalated. At the second shooting, called in at 2:50 a.m., he said, neighbors noticed a rowdy group of 30 to 40 people in front of an apartment complex, but no one called police until shots were fired.

Straub said crime, including incidents like shootings and car prowlers, has dropped 10 percent downtown this year, despite the day’s incidents.

“Our increased patrol presence downtown is clearly having an effect,” he said. “But when you have a location like this and you have individuals that are intent on settling their own scores, their own beefs, and doing it in a public place, that’s what jeopardizes the safety of the community.”

Thomas Clouse contributed to this report

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