The stranger jumped out of the car and approached from behind. Katie Szczepaniak could guess by his shaky demeanor that his gun was loaded.
“He seemed like a loose cannon,” she said, recalling the robbery.
Szczepaniak and her boyfriend, Aaron Lee, turned over their wallets. They thought it was over when he began to walk away.
And then: “The guy turned around and just shot him” in the abdomen, she said Sunday, recounting the violent mugging Friday night along a busy stretch of late-night bars and restaurants in northeast Minneapolis.
After three surgeries, Lee is expected to survive. The bullet is still lodged near his thigh, where it stopped. Police are investigating; no one has been arrested.
Lee, better known to his friends as “Hix,” was shot around 10:30 p.m. Friday on the corner of 13th Avenue and 4th Street NE., just before his band, Red Daughters, was slated to play at the nearby 331 Club.
It was an unusually violent crime for the area, occurring on a well-lit block that includes Northeast Social and Sheridan Room, and near well-trafficked University Avenue.
The Police Department’s Second Precinct, which extends from 37th Avenue NE. down to Prospect Park, accounts for the lowest percentage of violent crime in the city so far in 2018, according to police statistics.
News of the crime spread quickly over the weekend in Minneapolis, where Lee is well known as a gregarious, long-bearded fixture in the local bar and restaurant scene.
“Everybody loves Aaron,” said Michael Sherwood, owner of Pizza Nea, where Lee works as a server. “He just glows with happiness and warmth. There’s no finer human being.”
‘My boyfriend’s been shot’
Calling from the hospital room Sunday, where Lee was awake and making jokes, Szczepaniak said she didn’t know why the stranger turned around and fired that night.
Szczepaniak and Lee dropped off the band’s equipment and van before Lee’s show and were heading back to Szczepaniak’s place nearby to get ready.
They saw a car pull over, but didn’t think much of it until the man stepped out and walked toward them.
“The only words I remember him saying were, ‘Give me your phones and your wallets,’ ” said Szczepaniak.
She remembers the shooting, and screaming, “my boyfriend’s been shot!” and how several kind strangers ran to help, one giving them a towel to help with all the blood.
The police and ambulance arrived in minutes, which turned out to be life saving. She saw the man jump back into the car, which sped away before authorities arrived.
Szczepaniak said they’ve been inundated with support from friends, family and community members.
As of early Sunday evening, hundreds had already donated to a GoFundMe page in Lee’s name to help offset his hospital bills, totaling more than $30,000.
Pizza Nea will hold a fundraiser on Saturday starting at 8 p.m., with all proceeds going to Lee.
“Its overwhelmingly amazing,” Szczepaniak said. “We’re beyond thankful.”