‘Terrified’ customers fled after shots rang out in crowded Durham bar district

Signage marking the intersection of Rigsbee Avenue and West Geer Street in Durham.
Signage marking the intersection of Rigsbee Avenue and West Geer Street in Durham. cwarrenhicks@heraldsun.com

A man stepped into the middle of the street in an area surrounded by restaurants and bars shortly after midnight Saturday and fired a gun into the air.

Witnesses said customers and bystanders ran away as the sound of gunshots rang out.

Durham police responded to the 700 block of Rigsbee Avenue at 12:41 a.m. Saturday, said police spokeswoman Kammie Michael. No one was injured, and police have not made an arrest.

The intersection of Rigsbee Avenue and West Geer Street is home to many bars, music venues and restaurants that are popular on Friday nights.

Kevin Gallin, a student Duke University, said he was at the Kotuku Surf Club when he heard gunshots. The bar was crowded, he said, and “people were running and freaking out.”

“The bartenders came out and told everyone to get inside,” he said.

The Surf Club’s management responded to inquires about the incident with a written statement.

“An unknown individual was witnessed releasing an unknown number of rounds from a hand gun into the air approximately 50 yards down and across the street from our front door,” wrote Rhys Botica, owner of the Surf Club. “Our manager on duty immediately called 911 whilst simultaneously gathering our customers inside the premises and then proceeded to lock the front door … I’m very proud of how my staff reacted in that moment.”

Danielle Housley, a manager at The Bar Durham on Rigsbee Avenue, was working that night. The club was packed with N.C. Central University students who had returned from summer break, she said.

“He pulled up in the parking lot across the street, got out of his car and was standing near (Durham) Central Park,” Housley said of the shooter.

“Then he left,” Housley continued. “And that was basically it.”

Customers ran to the rear exit of the bar, she said.

“Terrified, people were terrified,” Housley said. “No, this doesn’t happen here. I haven’t seen anything like it happen around the area before.”

Based on an initial investigation, police described the suspect as a black male standing approximately 5 feet 9 inches tall who wore his hair in dreadlocks.

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks