Minneapolis vigil/rally turns into brawl

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 28, 2010 - 9:26 PM

Six people, including Haywood Eaton's mother, were arrested where Eaton was gunned down last September.

A memorial service and stop-the-violence rally for an 18-year-old slaying victim in north Minneapolis turned into a small melee Sunday, with the victim's mother arrested, officers injured and squad cars damaged.

An estimated 200 people gathered at Hawthorne Crossing shopping center's parking lot, near a fast-food restaurant where Haywood Eaton was gunned down last September. Police said Eaton and the shooter were gang members fighting over a woman. The shooter, also 18, pleaded guilty earlier this year.

A private security employee called police about 1:30 p.m. because the crowd was blocking lot entrances. Initially, the crowd's exchanges with police were civil, said Mike Martin, inspector of the North Side's Fourth Precinct. He didn't believe the event's planners had permission from the shopping center to gather there.

Officers checked several hours later and found people continuing to block entrances, Martin said. A fence had been vandalized, and someone had spray-painted "R.I.P. Haywood" on a sidewalk.

People in the crowd harassed passersby, and there was " a lot of drinking," Martin said. Officers identified Eaton's mother as the organizer and tried to talk to her, said Sgt. Bill Palmer, the department's public information officer.

She allegedly kicked a squad car's open door, pinning an officer's leg. Another officer feared that he had broken an arm trying to arrest her, Palmer said. She also tried to take the guns of several officers, he said.

Officers called for backup. Somebody smashed an officer in the head with a cell phone. The officers drove to a nearby parking lot and told the crowd via a squad-car PA system to disperse, Palmer said. At some point, someone threw a piece of concrete through a squad car window.

Six people, including Eaton's mother, sister and several juveniles, were arrested. The mother remained in Hennepin County jail Tuesday. No charges have been filed against her.

Although the event was intended to stop violence and remember Eaton, less than two hours after the crowd dispersed, officers responded to a shooting a few blocks away. Police said both the victim and shooter had attended the memorial service.

"People were warned several times to cooperate," Martin said. "It's our job to protect private property and enforce 'no trespassing' when private security want people to leave."

Some at the service are behind violence on the North Side, he said. There was talk that many in the group were going to return to the shopping center Monday, but police turned them away, he said.

Longtime community activist Ron Edwards said people in the community are tense over the incident because "the cops lost control of the situation." Those who planned the service got permission to hold it in front of the Burger King near the shopping center, he said. A representative for the restaurant didn't return a telephone call Tuesday.

Edwards said the service was an opportunity for young people to talk about stopping violence and maintaining peace. It wasn't an event to lambast the police, he said.

"Haywood was a popular young man," he said when told Eaton was a gang member. "If friends wanted to have a memorial to remember him and at the same time call for peace, I think it's appropriate. Obviously, because of the way police reacted, I was wrong."

David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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