The number of nonfatal shootings in Minneapolis are on pace to top last year, highlighting a crime that touches nearly every corner of the city and has low rates of arrest and prosecution.
Minneapolis police have logged at least 116 shootings this year. One person was allegedly shot for refusing to give her phone number. Another got shot after leaving a birthday party. One was shot by a man allegedly aiming at someone else.
A Star Tribune review of Minneapolis police reports found at least those 116 confirmed shooting victims between Jan. 1 and July 20. But the numbers are murky. Police lump nonfatal shootings in the broader category of assault, making it difficult to know exactly how many people are truly getting shot in Minneapolis. City officials have counted 154 shootings this year.
Police have arrested 46 people after shootings this year, according to the Star Tribune analysis, with some of the alleged shooters having multiple arrests.
Oftentimes, police do not make any arrests, but they use the data to pinpoint areas where shootings have intensified to improve enforcement in those neighborhoods.
“We are constantly shifting resources like patrols, investigators, specialized teams and security cameras into areas deemed ‘hot spots,’ ” said Scott Seroka, a police department spokesman.
Nonfatal shootings seldom make headlines, but they can rattle a community long after the shots were fired and authorities have pulled away. Victims say they are often afraid to go to the store or walk their neighborhoods with their children.
“I was just waiting for a bus,” said one woman, who asked that her name not be published.
She and a friend were on W. Lake Street April 8 at 8 p.m. when a car with four young men inside pulled up. The men started talking to the women, asking them for their phone numbers. The women did not talk, and the men eventually pulled away. As the car left, someone in the car shot a gun at the two women, hitting one in the back twice and the other in the finger.
It was not a high-powered gun — maybe a pellet gun — but it shocked both women.
No one has been arrested in that case.
Nasir Al Ali was visiting a friend at Toni’s Market on Chicago Avenue S. on March 29 when he stepped outside for a cigarette.
He saw a man limping toward him.
“Call the police,” the man said, lifting his pant leg to show a fresh bullet wound.
Ali said he did not believe the 28-year-old man at first because he was so nonchalant about the gunshot wound in his right leg. Soon the police were on the scene, and Ali told them what he knew.
The Minneapolis Police Department’s Crime Analysis Unit said 154 people have been shot so far this year, through July 28. The city publishes the shooting locations weekly, but the crime map doesn’t include any information about the incidents.
The city reported 218 gunshot victims in 2013, a 15 percent increase over 2012, according to a report released in April. The city has averaged 241 shooting victims annually over the past eight years, according to the same report.
Hijacked by a gunman
Roberto Melendez, 53, said his shooting incident happened so fast he still doesn’t know how many bullets were fired; one, maybe two. He was driving to Kmart to buy eggs for a Mexican dish when a gunman jumped into his car at a stoplight on Lake Street.
“Drive,” the gunman instructed around 8 p.m. on a cold April night.
Melendez steered his Ford Ranger away from busy Lake Street and into a quiet neighborhood a few blocks away. The gunman ordered him to stop the truck, punched him in the face with the butt of the gun and then took his cash and cellphone.
Melendez stepped out of the truck and the gunman shot at him before running off.
Somehow the two bullets missed Melendez’s leg by inches, and he escaped with bruises and a harrowing tale of how he nearly became one of the city’s shooting victims.
“I was so nervous,” Melendez said.