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Murder at the Empire Cabaret: Eyewitness Details

The Black Rod is hearing disturbing reports that may explain why Winnipeg police are having trouble finding the man who stabbed 24-year-old Jeff Engen to death at the Empire Cabaret.

We've collected information from well-placed sources who were at the Empire the night of the murder---a friend of Engen's who was standing beside him when he was stabbed, and a girl who was splashed with his blood before he collapsed and died in front of her eyes.

And the story we're hearing is:

1. There were NO ID SCANNERS at the Empire so "there's no way of knowing who had been in and out of the place all night." People coming in could see themselves on security cameras, but THE CAMERAS WERE NOT RECORDING.

2. Not that it mattered anyway, because, as we're told, THE KILLER WAS A FRIEND OR ACQUAINTANCE OF SOMEONE WELL-CONNECTED TO THE CLUB and was let in through a private entrance bypassing all security measures.

Some information reaching our ears contradicts what's been reported in the newspapers.

For example, the friend of Engen's who was bar-hopping with him that night has said they were literally standing back-to-back when Engen was stabbed. There was no commotion before the attack, according to him, and no apparent trigger for the stabbing.

The girl who thought she was just going dancing with a friend said they were patted down when they arrived at the Empire at about 11 p.m. But after they went to another club and returned about 1:30 a.m. "we were able to walk right through security without so much as a second glance."

On Saturday nights, the Empire Cabaret hosted "The Palacio de la Salsa" on the main floor, with music ranging from Salsa, Cumbia, Merengue, Bachata, and Latin pop. In the basement it was DJ Oxide playing House music for a different crowd.Upstairs, couples were dancing to the final song of the night, Boyz II Men's On Bended Knee, when a dying Jeff Engen staggered onto the dance floor.

A blog post by J.A. picks up the story:

"... all of a sudden a guy stumbled past me and collapsed into M. She either pushed him or he just fell on the floor. Confused, I looked the the guy, who was on the floor on his back a few feet from us. His chest was covered in blood and his eyes were closed and he was moving slowly, gasping. I looked at M and she was covered in blood. Her chest and arms, her shirt, all down both of her legs. She was looking at him and back down at her arms and clothes repeating "oh my god."

I looked down at my own hands and saw that I had blood on my shirt, forearms, and hands. I walked over to M and kept watching the guy on the floor as a crowd formed around him and people tried to help him. Someone lifted up his shirt to find out where he was bleeding from. He had a cut down his chest that was gushing blood. Another person who was holding his hand against the man's neck said, loudly "he's got no pulse, he's gone" just as the man gasped and moved his head. M and I both yelled "he's not dead! He's moving!"

...M was drenched and we needed to get cleaned off. I grabbed our stuff and we went down the back spiral staircase to the basement where the bathrooms are. There was what I assumed was a barback or some kind of staff member standing at the top of the stairs who told us that we couldn't go down. M told him "I'm covered in blood, move," or something to that effect, and we went downstairs. Each step had a pool of blood on it. It was terrifying. We cleaned up and I realized that I had left my bag on our table so I ran upstairs to get it. I considered briefly going back up the bloody staircase, but I saw some bewildered staff member starting to mop up the blood and a bartender yelled at me not to use those stairs, so I ran to the front stairs.

When I got upstairs the lights were on and people were everywhere. I grabbed my bag and watched as a security guard yelled at someone who was trying to give the man on the floor CPR that he was doing it wrong. A woman stepped in and started to take over. I watched as she pumped his chest and instructed the security guard to breathe into his mouth. I was frozen. I went back downstairs, sure that I had just seen him die."

Police gathered about 20 people in a bus and took them to the Public Safety Building to get videotaped statements from them. But the process took hours, leaving J.A. to suspect the delay was deliberate.

"I realized afterward that they were probably leaving us in there for so long to wear us down, so that any attempt at hiding the truth would be thwarted by our sheer exhaustion and overwhelming desire to get the fuck out of that tiny, claustrophobia-inducing room."

But if it was deliberate, it may have been counter-productive.

"Why did we have to wait in cells for 7 hours before we gave our statements (at which point I had forgotten a bunch of details that I would have remembered had I been questioned right away)?"


Crips and Bloodz true cultural anchors of Winnipeg's aboriginal gangs

The Black Rod's exclusive expose of the connections between six Winnipeg murder victims and a network of street gangs brought us this feedback straight from The Street, correcting some of our research. We couldn't dream of editing it, so we present it as received:

you have my homie lester(R.I.P) listed under CKrabz. he aint no muthafucken CKrab he a strait up BLOOD PIRU * Lester Gonzalez(BLOODZ), 19, was stabbed to death outside after leaving the Empire Cabaret on Main Street bar in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve. Crips killaz. this shit is wrong it fucken pisses me off to see this shit.. and dat shit wit andrew nobess he aint no muthafucken blood he just some guy trying to get down with us and elliot flett was no blood either we don't even know these muthafuckers. also we are not a "aboriginal Gang" as you put it. 50 percent of the familia is natives like me 25 percent latinos the res asian,white,and black. so now that i straiten it out about the notorious and youngbloodz. change dat shit you got all wrong on your muthafuCKen article. Let a blood kill a crip and let tha tru color drip YOUNGBLOODZ OSV FAMILIA fo lyfe

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