Fatal Shooting Shutters Doors At City’s ‘Heart’

A 24-year-old Cambodian man was shot dead inside the popular Heart of Darkness nightclub and bar in the early hours of Thursday morning, the latest violent incident at one of Phnom Penh’s most well-known nightspots, police said.

Ouk Sameat, a student at the Asia Euro Institute, was shot in the back with a handgun at about 3 am, Chea Rotha, first deputy muni­cipal police chief said.

Local police say they are looking for a suspect who was in the company of children of high-ranking government officials at the time.

Chea Rotha said the shooting happened after two groups of young Cambodians argued at the bar, then one of them went to get a high-quality gun from his car, brought it back into the club and shot the victim.

Phnom Penh Police Commis­sioner Heng Pov said police were in­vestigating but declined further comment.

Deputy National Police Commis­sioner Sok Phal said he had heard about the shooting but didn’t have clear details on it, and referred further questions to Heng Pov.

As part of their investigation, police have closed the Heart of Darkness on Street 51, which reached international fame in the 1990s as a must-visit spot for foreign backpackers and has in recent years become popular with the children of high-ranking officials.

There have been a number of incidents involving weapons and well-connected youths at the Heart of Darkness in recent years.

“The Heart of Darkness gave our police a headache many times, and it made many students be­tween 21 and 24 years old addicted to the place,” so it has been closed on the orders of Heng Pov, said Chea Rotha.

Nile Sprague, a Web site designer and a US national, was coming out of the nightclub’s bathroom at 2:45 am, when he heard a shot, and saw people scream and flee the dance floor, to reveal a body slumped on the ground.

Five minutes later, a black sports car containing two well-heeled young Cambodians screeched away from outside the club, knocking over several parked motorbikes, he said.

Within 45 seconds, the car was back, and over the next 10 minutes it drove up and down Street 51 at high speed four or five times, Sprague said.

A few minutes later, what ap­peared to be the same car arrived near the club, and a man holding a two-way radio and dressed in khaki bodyguard uniform stepped out, which was when Sprague de­cided to leave.

Jonah Katzeff, also a US national working in Web site design, was sitting outside the dance area in­side the club when the shooting happened.

“Everyone disappeared outside and there was some crazy driver going up and down, probably looking for someone,” he said, adding that the car may have contained the gunman.

“There were no ambulances, no police, and no one was trying to help the [victim],” he said. “Ob­viously it was a pretty scary situation.”

A man identifying himself as the man­ager of the establishment said he was uncertain how the shooting happened.

“We security check, but bad peo­­ple” are still sometimes able to con­ceal weapons at the bottom of their legs where security guards cannot find them, he said outside the premises on Thursday afternoon.


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