Detroit police are reviewing Green Light video footage taken early Wednesday morning outside The Woodward Bar & Grill, where a man was shot and killed around 3 a.m. The victim, Lance Sutherland, was shot by an unidentified assailant who fled the scene and is now at large.
WDIV reported that Sutherland and the unknown suspect got into an altercation inside of the bar that spilled outside. But others report that Sutherland was just a bystander who got caught in crossfire when the man, who allegedly was able to take a 40-caliber gun into the club, attempted to shoot someone else.
Ka’Juan “KHAOS” Hill and Jeremy Toney were friends of Sutherland’s. They are organizing a candlelight vigil and “peaceful protest” tonight, Sept. 30, at 9 p.m. outside the bar.
“Our intention is to honor our friend Lance and to raise awareness about the significant increase of violent incidents that have taken place at The Woodward Bar & Grill,” said Hill. “There have been security issues at this establishment for quite some time. This is not the first time someone has been shot or seriously injured. This is just the first time life has been lost.”
Hill said he hopes the protest will encourage the Woodward’s owner and management to enact stricter safety measures.
“The Woodward has been around for many years and we hope it’s around for many more,” Hill continued. “We understand that not everyone is going to agree with the decision to protest. … The decision came from the love we have for our friend and our hopes that we don’t lose any more friends because we didn’t take a stand.”
Toney told Pride Source that he hopes The Woodward takes some responsibility in this incident.
“I don’t want The Woodward to close,” he explains. “I just want some accountability to happen. All we want is to feel safe. That’s our place where we can be us. And we want to feel safe in those spaces. It’s become a little too lax.”
Woodward manager Jeff Smith posted about the shooting on Facebook: “If I could change this situation I certainly would,” he said. “What happened is terrible and had I not left maybe 15 minutes earlier it would have went down differently. But I had no idea some crazy guy was willing to shoot someone over nothing. It’s just crazy! My heart goes out to [the victim’s] family and friends.”
The Woodward is the oldest gay bar in Detroit still in operation. The bar, which opened 70 years ago in 1951, was originally owned by Bill Karagas with assistance from his brothers Sam and Andy. In its early years, it served a mostly straight clientele including employees of nearby General Motor and Fisher Building, who’d come in at lunchtime for a burger. By night, it catered to a crowd of mostly gay men.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, The Woodward became known as a whites-only bar; Black patrons would often have to show three forms of ID to get in — if even that worked. By the ‘80s, the crowd was decidedly more mixed. Andy, the bar’s host, died in 1997. The bar, now under the ownership of Bill’s widow Lorraine, attracts a mostly Black crowd. That crowd has only continued to grow and the bar currently remains one of the most popular in Detroit’s Black LGBTQ+ community.
This story is developing.