Seventeen people were struck by gunfire, two fatally, in a five-day spasm of violence that swept the Twin Cities last week.
The two killings occurred over the weekend in St. Paul, where police on Monday made a plea for the public’s help in finding those responsible for the separate attacks.
“When we have a weekend like this, when we had two homicides, it’s incredibly concerning,” said St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders, adding that the weekend’s shootings included an assault Sunday that seriously wounded a 19-year-old woman.
Meanwhile, 14 people were shot in Minneapolis between Tuesday and Saturday, putting the city on pace for its second-highest tally in the past decade, behind only 2016. Police in both cities have no indication any of the shootings are connected. Ten of the Minneapolis shootings happened on the North Side.
St. Paul police were summoned about 5 a.m. Saturday to Lafond Avenue and Dale Street N. in the Frogtown neighborhood. They found 38-year-old Dawahn Littles of St. Paul suffering from a gunshot wound. He was taken to Regions Hospital, where he died. A 49-year-old woman was later arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting murder, police said.
Around 2 a.m. Sunday, officers were called to a shooting in the 900 block of University Avenue. A short time later, a gunshot victim, later identified as Brandon Roberts, 31, was dropped off at Regions. He died sometime later. The deaths marked the 18th and 19th homicides in St. Paul this year.
St. Paul police say they have responded to around 1,140 calls of shots fired so far this year, a year-over-year increase of 37 percent, but they pointed out that many of the reports turned out to be unfounded.
The pace has slowed since April, when shooting calls were up 75 percent compared to the first four months of 2016. In response, the department beefed up staffing for its gang and weapons units, Linders said.
“So while we’ve made progress, there’s still more work to do,” he said. “We’re working with our federal partners, and we are aggressively working to identify those who illegally carry or shoot firearms in our city.”
The latest victim was a woman, 19, who was shot while riding in a car Sunday afternoon, Linders said. The car was rolling up to a stop sign at Western and Minnehaha avenues when another vehicle pulled up alongside and opened fire.
In Minneapolis, Deputy Police Chief Erick Fors said the department has made some strides in curbing gun violence, pointing to the large number of guns seized citywide and a 16 percent increase in the number of arrests for aggravated assaults, like shootings and stabbings, so far this year compared to 2016.
“The MPD has identified the areas where directed patrols will be placed in an effort to prevent future shootings from occurring,” he said in an e-mailed statement. But a lack of witness cooperation has complicated several of the investigations.
Aggressive prosecution, at the local and federal levels, has also helped keep firearms out of the hands of felons, authorities say.
Yet the violence has persisted in Minnesota’s largest city, where five people were shot on Saturday.
The violence started about 2:50 a.m., when a 49-year-old was wounded in the knee with a shotgun during a robbery attempt in north Minneapolis’ Cleveland neighborhood.
Shortly before 4 p.m., two gunshot victims walked into North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale within minutes of each other. Both said they’d been shot in north Minneapolis: One, a 23-year-old Minneapolis man, told police he was injured in the area of 26th and Penn avenues, while another man was wounded near 34th and Bryant avenues.
About five hours later, a 49-year-old man suffered a gunshot wound a block north of the earlier incident on Bryant. The victim had gotten into a tussle on his front porch with another man, who ended up shooting him in the leg. Police are looking for a black sedan that was seen speeding from the house.
Around 10:48, officers responding to gunfire coming from the 1600 block of N. Morgan Avenue in the Willard-Hay neighborhood found a man bleeding from a bullet wound to the back. The victim, 25, was taken to a nearby hospital and is expected to survive, police said.
Nine people were shot earlier in the week, four on Wednesday alone.
Only one of the cases has so far yielded an arrest: a 43-year-old handgun permit holder from Corcoran jailed on suspicion of shooting a teenager in downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday. He was released from custody two days later, jail records show.
Police said that the violence was too scattered to say with certainty whether any of the shootings were related, although preliminary investigations suggested they were not.
So far this year, 229 people have been struck by gunfire citywide — roughly 21 percent fewer than this time last year — most on the North Side. If the pace continues, Minneapolis will log 283 shootings this year.
Many of the assaults have been attributed to gang disputes.
In 2016, Minneapolis had 341 gunshot victims, after averaging 243 per year over the previous decade, according to department figures. The number of juvenile gunshot victims has also risen in each of the past five years. Four of the 14 people shot in Minneapolis last week were 18 or younger.