Gunshots wound 2 sailors outside Oak Harbor club

Two sailors — ­a man and a woman — suffered gunshot wounds early Sunday morning outside Element night club in the parking area of downtown Oak Harbor’s Bayshore Drive business.

No arrests have been made as the source of the shots — or shot — remains a question mark.

Both gunshot victims are Petty Officers 2nd Class at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, said Kim Martin, NAS Whidbey public affairs officer.

The 26-year-old male from VAQ-134 was shot in the abdominal area during the incident, said Capt. Rick Wallace, interim Oak Harbor Police chief. He was then airlifted from Whidbey General Hospital to Harborview Medical Center, where he was said to be in stable condition Tuesday.

The other victim, a 27-year-old woman with VAQ-129, sustained a less-serious gunshot wound in her leg. She was treated at Whidbey General Hospital and later released.

No additional information about the incident, including the victims’ names, is being released.

One bullet,

or more?

Oak Harbor police are reportedly investigating a pair of markedly different theories that could place the gun in one of the victim’s hands or in the hands of a separate shooter, according to night club owners Mike Kummerfeldt and Lance Kohler.

Wallace said the shooting occurred between 2:10 and 2:20 a.m. just after the night club closed.

Discrepancies in the number of shots heard by witnesses have pointed to the possibility of an accidental discharge. The night club owners said police explained that one bullet could have caused both wounds.

“Most of the witnesses said they only heard one shot,” Kummerfeldt said. “A single shot stands out.”

The possibility exists that both victims were inadvertently shot when the male fired the weapon as he was simultaneously removing the firearm and being pushed into a vehicle by the female, Kohler explained.

Without revealing details of the ongoing investigation, Wallace said that detectives have been contending with uncooperative victims and witnesses. Despite the taciturn and possibly misleading interviewees, the captain said he is confident of the identities of all parties involved. However, no arrests have yet been made and detectives are attempting to reconcile the conflicting witness reports of the number of shots they claim were fired.

“As a result of the lack of cooperation, detectives are working their way through the evidence and different theories,” Wallace said. “We’re confident we’ll be able to prove who actually fired the shot or shots.”

He estimated that three to seven people saw the shooting while another 20 were in the vicinity. If it turns out the male victim was also the shooter, he will face felony charges.

“We’re looking at serious charges either way,” Wallace said.

Shots worry

area residents

Bayshore Drive was bustling with activity at the time of the shooting. An officer and Washington State Patrol trooper were at one end processing a DUI. Another police officer and an Island County Sheriff’s deputy were on foot in the other direction. The close proximity of law enforcement provided a quick response.

The outbreak of violence in Oak Harbor will provide plenty of fodder for condominium owners across the street who have opposed the night club.

Steve Boughner, a resident of the Waterside condominiums, was having a cigarette outside his ground floor unit 10 minutes before the shooting.

“I was at ground zero. I came back out when I heard sirens and saw a big mob up on the hill next to the smoking area,” he recounted. “Then I saw crime scene tape that police had put up. Nobody left. Everybody stayed to watch.”

Boughner, however, never heard a gunshot, nor did third-floor resident Faye Konopik, whose bedroom faces the night club. She said the noise routinely keeps her awake until after 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

“I was asleep during the shootings, because I was so tired from being up Friday. And I get up at six for church,” she said.

Noise problems are a weekly ritual that Konopik, Boughner and others in the complex undergo.

“I’m out there every hour or hour-and-a-half having a smoke,” Boughner said. “The smoking area is incredibly noisy. And then there are the car alarms.”

Aside from the noise, Konopik fears the possibility of an errant bullet traveling across the parking lot and into a condo.

“It could go right through a window,” she said.

Another condo resident, Chuck Fagan, said he didn’t hear the gunfire from across the street, but he has also been bothered by other noise since the night club opened, particularly the intermittent booming of car stereos. “My windows vibrate, it’s terrible,” he said.

Excessive noise was the primary concern for the condo residents and for members of the city council during the permitting process for the night club. The permit was approved in December.

“Our concern goes back to even before they started,” said Mayor Jim Slowik Tuesday, adding that the city will carefully monitor the night club’s operations and expects heightened security. “It’s a terrible thing that happened and our hearts and prayers go out to the victims.”

Slowik, who assumed his duties in January, postulated that the popularity of the night club may have grown too quickly and exceeded the owners’ expectations.

“I think they’re growing into the needs of their own business,” the mayor said. “They now see the kind of impact it has. It’s up to all of our businesses to comply with the rules and ordinances of the city.”

Element’s Kohler said “steps are being taken proactively to address all concerns,” not the least of which is safety. He added that the outside smoking and beer garden area is being insulated to dampen noise.

Club plans

more security

Inside the expansive building, the night club coexists with the Hot Rock Grill, an all-ages restaurant. The owners said they are addressing the recent incident, just as they have with other problems implicit with their specific business.

“We live here, this is our community,” Kummerfeldt said. “We obviously are doing everything to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”

Security personnel have performed cursory searches on people entering the night club. That procedure will now be ramped up, with extra scrutiny placed on patrons wearing baggier clothing that could conceal contraband.

Element opened its doors New Year’s Eve and served hundreds of customers largely without incident. Until Sunday morning, few public reports had circulated about problems at the new business. Wallace said the owners have exercised prudence in establishing security.

“I think they’re doing a pretty good job on the security inside,” he said. “Now they have to focus on the security in the parking area. From the get-go they’ve been very responsive to the city’s requests and the requests of the police department.”

Kohler said the police chief’s recommendations were already in the works before they met with Wallace. Law enforcement walkthroughs have all gone well, he added.

“The same control we use inside the building will be used outside,” the owner said. “We want people to always have the feeling of safety here and to respect the place.”

Slowik was confident the details of the case would shake out.

“We need to get to the truth,” he said. “And I know the truth will come out.”

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