The gunmen who shot dead a father of three who tried to intervene in a street robbery had earlier been seen brandishing pistols in a nightclub.
But police called to the Millionaires Club on the edge of the St Paul's district of Bristol where the killing took place at 7am on New Year's Day, decided against taking action because of fears the hundreds of revellers would riot if the all-night dance was closed down.
Officers investigating the death of Evon Berry are targeting those who were at the nightclub. Senior detectives have expressed concern at the lack of co-operation police on the night received from the organisers of the dance. It is understood they failed to help police identify the armed men.
That lack of help is in marked contrast to the public response since the shooting of Mr Berry, 37, a well known local figure and caretaker at the Malcolm X Centre in St Paul's. He had been returning home after clearing up at the centre's New Year party when he happened across the robbery in Sussex Place. He died from a single shot to the head fired from a .32 pistol.
Police hope the shooting - and the wounding of two brothers aged 36 and 39, who were with Mr Berry, and have not been identified - will lead to stronger ties between the police and the community shocked by this latest incident.
One senior officer said: "This is clearly a tragedy for the family and a great disappointment for a community that has worked hard to overcome its poor image nationally. We hope that out of this the local community will grow in strength and greater links with the local police will be forged."
Community leaders have been liaising with the police and it is believed the gunmen were from out of the area and had been attracted to St Paul's for the New Year festivities. The mugging victim, who has not been named but is from Southampton, was also in Bristol socialising. Police have discounted reports that the gunmen were from the Moss Side area of Manchester.
Although the shooting is the third incident involving firearms in St Paul's in the past month, police were trying to play down the apparent rise of a gun culture allied to the drugs trade in the area. A senior officer said shootings and possession of firearms in St Paul's were rare compared with areas in London, Manchester and Liverpool.Reuse content