When Nolan Belfe heard someone say “gunshots,” he thought it was all part of the show.
Belfe, 19, and friend Cole Denton, 20, were crammed against the front of the stage to watch rap duo Heavy Metal Kings perform an encore at Club 9one9 on Monday night.
Outside, a barrage of bullets was unleashed from a passing vehicle at 1 a.m., sending the club into a controlled panic.
A staff member approached one of the performers and whispered in his ear.
“(The performers) said, ‘Someone got shot. We can’t do the encore,'” Belfe said.
Staff ordered everyone out the back door and onto Courtney Street, forcing many patrons to leave behind their belongings at the coat check.
“Nobody really knew what was happening at first,” said Denton, whose father works for News publisher Black Press. “It’s definitely shocking to see it happen in Victoria.”
Belfe said he found it “mind-boggling” that a drive-by shooting would occur in the Capital Region in what appears to be a senseless manner.
“I feel like it’s getting a bit riskier downtown, not a safe city anymore,” he said.
Not true, said VicPD Const. Mike Russell.
“Since 2008, there’s been a massive decrease in the amount of violent crime downtown,” Russell said.
While 2012 numbers have yet to be released, Russell said police have seen success with the BarWatch program, where patron IDs are scanned and checked against a database of known gang members and people with violent crime convictions.
A task force on downtown safety in 2009 also led to an additional four officers being stationed in the downtown core on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights each week, Russell said.
Dennis Grant Fletcher, 23, is wanted on a warrant for attempted murder in the drive-by shooting.
Fletcher is five-foot-seven, 130 pounds, with brown hair and a small scar on his chin. Police warn the public not to approach him, but to call 911 if he is seen.