Homicide detectives will investigate links between a chilling fatal drive-by shooting outside an Australian nightclub and recent extortion attempts by at least two outlaw motorcycle gangs.
Security guard Aaron Khalid Osmani, 37, was gunned down outside the Love Machine nightclub in Prahran, Melbourne, when shots were fired indiscriminately into a crowd of people just after 3am on Sunday.
A witness, Sandra, told The Age the club was still busy, with many patrons around the entrance, when the shooting occurred.
“I just saw the car roll up and then ‘pow, pow, pow, pow’ – four times they shot,” she said.
“The people were all lining up to get in the club, they just start screaming and yelling ‘Oh my god, oh my god’. When the car left they ran to the people on the ground.”
A second security guard, aged 28, is fighting for life in The Alfred hospital, while another bouncer was injured and a male patron waiting to get into the Little Chapel Street venue was wounded.
About half a dozen shots were fired from a stolen Porsche Cayenne that was torched in Wollert on Melbourne’s northern fringe about 5am.
Detectives will examine if the shootings are connected to recent attempts by members of the Comancheros gang to stand over figures associated with Love Machine and nearby Lux nightclub on Chapel Street.
The Age has been told that gang members have repeatedly menaced the venues in recent months, which prompted a change in security guards at Lux nightclub in the past fortnight.
Patrons and staff have been threatened, while the gang refuses to pay for drinks, according to police and nightclub sources.
At least one other outlaw motorcycle gang has also demanded payments from the clubs, which have long been a haven for bikies, underworld figures and strippers.
On Sunday evenings, the late-night venue regularly exceeds its capacity of 450 patrons, which has resulted in official complaints to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation in the past month.
The two venues are owned by Dhir Kakar, who is backed by a consortium of investors from Melbourne and India. Kakar did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Sunday.
Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper said the allegations of extortion by outlaw motorcycle gangs would form one line of inquiry.
“The full resources of the crime department are actively investigating this matter at the moment and no stone will be left unturned in terms of finding the people who carried out this act this morning,” he said on Sunday.
Police are also investigating whether the men in the car were at the nightclub earlier on.
“This is just a horrendous act, it’s a busy nightclub … at one of the main entertainment precincts in Melbourne,” Inspector Stamper said.
After blasting the club near the corner of Malvern Road and Little Chapel Street, the stolen Porsche is understood to have crossed over Malvern Road and sped down Bray Street.
“It was 3am in Prahran so there’s a lot of people around. So anyone who may have seen the car moving at speeds down the back streets or even down the main streets of Prahran, please get in touch with us,” Inspector Stamper said.
Witness Sandra, who saw the shooting out of her bedroom window, said she saw two men on the ground, one who had been shot in the leg.
“It was horrific, it was so horrible. I couldn’t sleep, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do my exams tomorrow,” she said.
“I guess this stuff happens but I just saw it all through my window.”
One woman posted to social media to let her family and friends know she was safe after she witnessed the shooting.
“There was a shooting right in front of us at Love Machine while we were standing across the road … so please if anyone is out at clubs please go home now,” she wrote on Facebook.
Osmani was rushed to hospital in a critical condition, but died on Sunday morning.
SECURITY GUARD MOURNED
Melbourne promoter Borche Kajmakoski said “no words” could explain the pain the families of the victims were suffering.
He paid tribute to Osmani, a man he said was an innocent bystander caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“You were always welcoming, always polite and always had a smile on your face every time myself and all other patrons came to the venue,” he wrote on Facebook.
“Your job was to keep everyone safe and you suffered protecting everyone else, you are a man like no other and my condolences go out to your family and friends.”
Another patron wrote on social media that Osmani was “always the one holding the rope for me saying goodnight, always a gentleman”.
A GoFundMe page for Osmani’s family described him as “a kind, funny and easy going guy” and that it was “a great loss to anyone who has had a pleasure of knowing him”.
“Most people who have been to Love Machine or other establishments either know him personally or have met him,” it reads.
Others have described the news as “an absolute tragedy, a life taken too soon”.
Love Machine issued a statement to their Facebook page on Sunday night that said the events that occurred outside their venue had shocked them deeply.
“Our thoughts are with the victims, their family and friends during this very difficult time.”
The venue is working closely with authorities and will re-open on Thursday, April 18.
Friend Sidney Saayman described it as a ‘devastating blow’.
“A place we call home and go to have fun, this just isn’t right,” he said.
“My heart bleeds right now (for) a great man, a beautiful soul.”
Love Machine patrons have been posting that Osmani was “one of the kindest security guards around”.
Peter Apostle posted on Facebook that he had woken up to “very, very sad news”.
“Many long nights working together, and many early morning laughs together as we stood in front of Viper eating our KFC. The world has lost a beautiful and gentle soul, RIP Aaron Khalid Osmani,” he wrote.
“You did not deserve to go like this. Love you brother.”
Melbourne promoter Borche Kajmakoski wrote on Facebook that “no words” could explain the pain suffered by the families of the victims.
He described Osmani as welcoming and “always polite”.
GUN LAW CHANGE?
Victoria’s state premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday shootings like this one “rock the city”.
He said the government will “stand ready” to reform gun laws if necessary.
“I’m not aware of any further request for additional gun law reform but given recent events, if the police commissioner came to me and said he needed more, then of course we would stand ready to do that,” he said.
Andrews said there had already been significant changes to the state’s gun laws. Most notable was the introduction of firearm prohibition orders, which allow police to search anyone subject to an order without a warrant.
“Whenever Victoria Police have come to us seeking more powers or more resources, we’ve stood ready do that and we do now,” Andrews said.
Local area inspector Mick Daly said it was “way too early” to determine if there were broader issues with gun laws.
“It would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time,” he said.
March was the deadliest month for shootings in Victoria in a decade, figures from the Coroners Court of Victoria show.
Five people were killed in Melbourne in four unconnected shootings in less than a fortnight.
Anyone with information is urged to phone Crime Stoppers or submit a confidential report online.