The after-hours party at 3019 27th Ave. S. had all the ingredients for a party.
There were loud music, a disco ball, plenty of booze, and a half-dozen different drugs. For protection, one party-goer had a loaded pistol. A dice game was rolling in case you felt like gambling.
And, of course, no party could be complete without strippers working the pole.
All that fun came to an abrupt end at 3:05 a.m. Wednesday, when two 10-man SWAT teams raided the abandoned storefront. Nine people were arrested and booked into jail for narcotics charges or outstanding warrants, and 78 were ticketed on "disorderly house" charges.
Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. William Palmer says the city had known of an ongoing party house for several weeks, but even the officers were surprised at what they found.
"Frankly," Palmer says, "I don't think they thought this would be this big."
The scene officers busted in on had all the makings of a real nightclub: powerful sound systems, computers, DVD players, microphones, ticket stubs for attendees, and, Palmer says, "a lot of booze."
Maurice Harrison, Jordan Clavelle, Manuel Lott, and Timothy Thomas were all charged with felony narcotics possession. Drugs found at the scene included marijuana, powder cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, and suspected ecstasy pills. Palmer says some of the drugs were found in amounts more than would typically be for personal use, and the presence of a digital scale also hinted that drugs were being weighed for selling purposes. Palmer says Harrison had around $500 cash on him, and because one bill was a fake, was also charged with felony counterfeiting.
Palmer said one person was found with a loaded .40 caliber pistol without a permit, though no charges had yet been filed. Another had a Gamo air pistol, which Palmer says is only a pellet gun but is still in violation of a city ordinance.
Police found dice on the ground, and one of those arrested said he had cash on him that he'd won gambling that night. Though none of the supplemental reports currently filed said that women were stripping at the time of the raid, stripper poles were found.
"They had a little bit of everything," Palmer said.
Aside from the five narcotics charges, Douglas Jackson, Terry Harrison, Alicia Grace, Tommy Morgan, and Diamond Haywood were each booked for "disorderly house" and outstanding warrants. Three others were arrested solely on disorderly house charges, and the remaining 75 were cited and released, also for "disorderly house."
Property owner David Chall said he leased the property to Maurice Harrison in mid-May. Harrison and his wife, Terry, who was among those arrested and charged for a warrant violation, had approached Chall with the idea of running a nonprofit organization out of the building. The Harrisons told Chall that their nonprofit, called Zodiac MC, had raised money for Toys for Tots in the past. Later, after a tornado hit north Minneapolis, they told Chall they'd be raising money for the victims.
Chall imagined the Harrisons' nonprofit running as a normal organization, with daytime hours, and that he had no idea about after-hours parties until he received a letter from the city on June 17. That letter, sent by the Business License Division, informed Chall that a Minneapolis police officer had verified that the building was being used as an after-hours bar. The letter also alleged that the tenants were using both sides of the building. Chall had rented only one side of the property to the Harrisons, meaning that if the other side was in use, they had broken in. Among the violations cited in that letter was adult entertainment: "strippers are an adult use and prohibited outside the downtown district," the letter explained.
Chall says he was "pretty shocked" to read the allegations in the letter. He immediately called Maurice Harrison, who denied everything. Chall next called the city, who referred him to the officer who had been inside the building. At that point, he began to doubt Harrison, and told the police he would do everything necessary to cooperate, including giving them a key to the building to do surveillance, and help get probable cause for a raid.
On Tuesday, just five days after Chall had first confronted him, Maurice Harrison called Chall and again denied everything. But by 3 a.m. Wednesday, the property, which consisted of one floor and a basement, was packed with 87 partiers.
"I don't know how they possibly were fitting 90 people in that building," Chall said.
Chall said some people had questioned his decision to rent to the Harrisons.
"I try to see the good in people," Chall said. "There's plenty of nice people on the North Side."
On Wednesday, police contacted Chall to tell him they had executed a raid. They offered to return his key, and apologized for a window that was broken during the raid. Chall says they also told him he would face no charges, due to his cooperation.
After he got the call, Chall returned to the property to sweep up broken glass outside. Then he walked through the neighborhood, talking to residents and restaurant owners.
"I operated my business out of that spot for years," Chall says. "I gave them all my phone number and card and told them if anything ever goes on, let me know."