GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When Mathieu Champagne moved to Grand Rapids from Philadelphia for a job three years ago, he figured he’d left big city problems behind.
Then this weekend happened.
“It’s the closest I’ve ever been to a gunfight, and I lived in Philly for 10 years,” said Champagne, talking to News 8 Monday about gunfire that erupted during a huge block-type party that clogged the street in front of his home over the holiday weekend.
Champagne lives in the Lofts on Alabama, an apartment complex off Bridge Street NW east of Seward. He estimates he heard roughly 40 gunshots shortly before 2:30 Sunday morning.
“I was actually standing on the front porch at about 2:19, and I actually saw a guy crouching down right here with a gun in his hand,” recalled Champagne, pointing to a parked car just a couple yards from his apartment.
“There were multiple people walking around with guns in their hands at that point,” he said.
Champagne and his wife ducked behind a counter in their apartment to wait for the gunfire to end.
“I thought, ‘I guess I should probably get down in case something comes flying in the window.’ That’s the only thing I could think to do. I think we were mostly in shock,” he said.
Champagne’s surveillance camera captured some of the gunshots.
Grand Rapids police told News 8 patrol units, responding to calls about the party at 1:15 a.m. Sunday, arrived to find a “very, very large crowd.” Officers heard gunshots and saw partygoers running away.
The Grand Rapids Police Department said the shots did not hit anyone and officers made no arrests, though the investigation continues.
It’s unclear if the event had any connection to a gathering that happened in mid-June across the Grand River in the Sixth Street Bridge Park. In that case, a barrage of gunshots fired by multiple people injured three men.
The hail of bullets that flew at Bridge and Alabama early Sunday morning broke up a large street party that began days earlier.
“It started Friday night,” Champagne explained.
“We noticed a huge, what seemed like a block party, taking place in the parking lot over here and the parking lot over there,” he said, referring to the old Kale’s Korner parking lot on the northwest corner of Bridge and Alabama.
“The entire street was blocked off with cars. (There were) hundreds of people.”
“Saturday came around and there were even more people, more cars. I had security camera footage of people driving down the sidewalk trying to get out because they were blocked in.”
Champagne said the party seemed to be based out of a vacant storefront between Kale’s and Condado Tacos on Bridge. But the owner of the storefront told News 8 the crowd had broken into the building and had no connection to the space.
Champagne said the weekend party goers seemed to come from outside Grand Rapids.
“I talked to some of the people, and they came from various parts of the state. This wasn’t just like a local thing. It was a put together, promoted event,” he said.
Champagne talked to one man who said he had promoted the gathering and believed – apparently erroneously – that the party’s organizers had bought the building that houses the vacant storefront.
Champagne says “overall” he still feels “relatively safe” in his neighborhood. Before this weekend, he said the most trouble his complex experienced was the theft of some bicycles from the building’s storage unit.