City shuts down Saginaw restaurant after shooting - WNEM TV 5

City shuts down Saginaw restaurant after shooting

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)

A Mid-Michigan restaurant was shut down after it was damaged by gunfire.

Its owner now has to defend her business license before city leaders all because of a problem she questions has anything to do with her.

Several windows were blown out in downtown Saginaw early Saturday morning and there's sure evidence of gunfire. Rita Johnson said it seems to be unfairly pinned on her.

"At least two shooters, probably 45 rounds that I counted," said Luka Dziubyna, witnessed the shooting.

He and his girlfriend, Honesty Elliott, live downtown. They said they were walking their dog just before 2 a.m. when the gunfire erupted. They took cover behind a nearby dumpster.

"It was not a good feeling. You feel helpless, confused," Elliott said.

Police are staying tight lipped about exactly what went down.

On Monday, Johnson received a notice from the city duct-taped to her door. The notice shut down Rita's Southern Soul Cafe, located at 110 N. Washington Ave.

"I don't know what the issue is that they have with me or if something is steaming up," Johnson said.

She said on Friday night young people packed her place for a local rap concert. She said there was no alcohol and 18 security guards worked the event and checked for weapons at the door. She said they didn't have any problems.

Just before closing time bullets crashed through her windows from outside, narrowly missing people on the dance floor. Johnson believes they came from across the street.

"We've never had anyone shoot in the building. There was no firing, no weapons fired in this building, not one," she said.

Yet, Johnson said the city is blaming her and she doesn't think it's right.

"I have no control over that," Johnson said.

The city said the notice was issued in response to an incident that happened on Saturday.

Police said the incident remains under investigation.

Dziubyna and Elliott said this is the first time something like this has happened downtown in a long time. They said they hope it doesn't take away from the good that's happening there.

"There's so many newer developments happening and I just don't want it to make other people more afraid," Elliott said.

Neighbors said they don't have a problem with the business, but certainly hope an incident like this never happens again.

Johnson's business license hearing took place Thursday at the Andersen Enrichment Center. It could be 30 days or more before a final decision is reached.

TV5 took Johnson's tough questions to the city to find out why her business was temporarily shut down.

"It's yet to be determined whether [Rita's Southern Soul Cafe] did anything wrong. However, obviously based on the condition of the buildings on Washington something happened here that is very bad," said John Stemple, Saginaw chief inspector.

TV5 asked if another downtown business - like the TV5 studios - were shot up, would that business have their license suspended too.

"Certainly there's different circumstances there. That hasn't happened. Should something like that happen, we would be looking at it the same way. We would be looking at it hard to see what was the cause. Why did it happen," Stemple said.

He said the city will not tolerate any actions that threaten public safety. Stemple said the situation at Johnson's restaurant is still under investigation.

Regardless of the findings, Stemple said bullets piercing any downtown business is unacceptable.

"Downtown Saginaw is experiencing some very good things and this type of thing is not going to be welcomed at all," Stemple said.

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