Even with the recent arrests of five suspected thugs, the string of violent crimes on or near the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota persisted this week with two new attacks, police said Friday.
Police intend to keep the heat on, with a robbery-suppression team working late at night, a meeting Tuesday with landlords about added lighting and surveillance cameras, and agencies working jointly to identify and arrest suspects, University of Minnesota Police Chief Greg Hestness said Friday.
Also Friday, charges were filed in Hennepin County District Court against two men, bringing to three the number of suspects charged in the late-night robbery of a U student. He was walking home on Nov. 20 when knocked out and robbed of his wallet and his backpack, which contained his $2,154 laptop.
Hestness said he hopes the latest charges, as well as earlier ones in two other cases, send a message that “it’s risky to pull your capers here.”
Since October, when Hestness saw an uptick in crimes on campus, the University Coordinated Response Team, which has a sergeant and two officers, has focused on preventing and solving robberies, he said. That team coordinates with Minneapolis police and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.
The undercover team has intervened in at least a half-dozen suspicious situations before they turned into crimes, Hestness said. In one case, they spotted suspects, some with prior robbery convictions, who were watching people get cash from an ATM. And they’ve caught some robbers red-handed, Hestness said.
About 2 a.m. Wednesday, undercover officers working in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, where many of the heists have occurred, saw two people standing over a third person who was curled on the ground in a fetal position.
He “looked in great distress,” Hestness said. The victim’s wallet had been taken and he “had a pretty big knot on his head,” the chief said.
An 18-year-old and a 17-year-old were arrested. The older suspect was charged. Prosecutors and the court have yet to determine whether the younger suspect will be charged as an adult.
In the other new incident, someone tried to rob a student near campus near the CVS Pharmacy at 4th Street and 15th Avenue SE. shortly before midnight Thursday.
A man accosted the student, knocked him down, said he had a gun and punched him in the face. Two accomplices arrived — a man and a woman — while the first suspect was reaching for the student’s wallet. When a witness appeared, the three suspects fled into a car, where a getaway driver was waiting.
Hestness said he’s concerned that guns are also being used in nearly half of the cases. Robbers are also targeting not just students walking alone, but even those in groups, he said.
Among projects underway are increasing the number of cameras on campus and ensuring that new multiunit housing — about 7,000 units being built just off campus — will include surveillance and security features.
Arrests in Nov. 20 case
Friday, the Hennepin County attorney’s office charged two men in the Nov. 20 case after arrests on Thursday and Friday. Charged were Nehemiah J. Richardson, 24; and Freddie P. Jackson, also known as Freddie P. Henderson, 21, both of Minneapolis.
Earlier, Myron Jovan Richardson-Rivers, 20, of Crystal, was charged with first-degree aggravated robbery and receiving stolen property. He was arrested Dec. 18. The three allegedly stole a laptop from the student as he was coming home from the Biomedical Library at 3:25 a.m. near Marcy Park.
The victim told police that a stranger came up, yelled a profanity and punched him in the right side of the face, knocking him out. When he awoke, his phone and backpack were gone.
The student used his laptop’s tracking features and discovered the computer “pinging” from a house in north Minneapolis. Campus police went to the house and the residents turned over the laptop, telling the police they got it from Richardson-Rivers.
Jackson later told police that Richardson socked the victim while Richardson-Rivers kicked him, criminal complaints say. The victim’s credit cards had also been used.
In yet another case, on Nov. 17, U police recovered a gun and used a DNA analysis after a robbery in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood. A passerby spotted the heist in progress and called 911 with the license plate number of the suspect’s vehicle. A university officer stopped the car near Washington Avenue and Oak Street SE. and detained four people.
The victim couldn’t identify the assailant. But the DNA came back positive for one of the four in that car. Ahmed D. Farah, 22, of Minneapolis, was charged Tuesday with robbery in the case investigated by Minneapolis police.
“I think we’ve made an impact on reducing the feeling that they can act with impunity around campus,” Hestness said.