Fort Lauderdale

Man Recounts Shooting at Blue Martini Nightclub That Killed Brother-in-Law

"I actually saw the muzzle fire from the gun, and that's when I realized I was hit."

The man who survived the Fort Lauderdale bar shooting that killed his brother-in-law minutes before his birthday recounted how a night out with his family ended in tragedy.

Andrew Cooks said that night on May 8 at the Blue Martini nightclub started off emotional. He was there with his family celebrating the life of a loved one who died of cancer. His brother-in-law, Arnold Person, was also minutes away from celebrating his 44th birthday. 

Right before the shooting, witnesses said there was some sort of altercation between the shooter and Person.

"He grabbed this gentleman's arms up against the bar, and I was kind of confused by what was going on, so after they lost their balance and fell that’s when I realized the shots started going off," Cooks recalled at a news conference Wednesday.

He said that he couldn't hear what was going on, but he was shot in the mix.

"I actually saw the muzzle fire from the gun, and that's when I realized I was hit," Cooks said. "I managed to make my way to the back trying to find an exit. But I eventually fell to the floor."

Cooks was shot in the stomach and spent five days recovering in the hospital. Person, however, did not survive.

The shooter, 52-year-old Andre Clark, was a retired DEA agent, according to Fort Lauderdale police. Detectives said he has been cooperative and they are looking into his employment status and firearm records with the agency.

Attorney Marwan Potter said federal law does not allow someone to have a gun in a bar, but there could be some legal gray area as Clark is a retired law enforcement officer.

In a statement, Clark's attorney said his client was legally justified in the shooting.

"As a retired federal law enforcement officer, he was permitted to have a handgun with him at the time," attorney Jeffrey A. Neiman said. "He was not the aggressor and he acted in self-defense. That said, this is a horrific tragedy for all involved, and Andre is grateful that Mr. Cooks' injuries were not life-threatening."

Police are still investigating the circumstances that led to the shooting and said it is up to the Broward State Attorney's office to decide whether charges will be filed.

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