Technology cracks Mpls. homicide case

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY and BOB VON STERNBERG , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: September 30, 2010 - 8:55 PM

The ShotSpotter system of microphones and cameras helped crack a case that might otherwise have gone unsolved.

A system of microphones and video cameras is being credited by Minneapolis police with cracking the city's latest homicide and leading to the arrest of two suspects this week.

Police say it's the first time that a homicide would have gone unsolved without the help of the city's ShotSpotter system, a network of microphones that pinpoint the location of gunshots and simultaneously aim nearby video cameras at the direction of the sound.

The system kicked into gear Sept. 17 when Christopher Roy de Ronde was fatally shot on a north Minneapolis sidewalk, said Minneapolis deputy police chief Robert Allen. No witnesses came forward, and no obvious clues were left at the scene. But ShotSpotter provided police with video images of a fleeing car.

"This was a case which was essentially a whodunit until we used the technology to track down the people," he said.

A 22-year-old Anoka man and a 23-year-old Brooklyn Park man were arrested about 6 p.m. Wednesday. They are being held in the Hennepin County jail.

Investigators had the video within an hour of the shooting and found the car in two to three days, said Minneapolis police Capt. Amelia Huffman, who heads the Criminal Investigations Division. The owner of that vehicle led police to the suspects, police said.

"Those initial images that the investigators were able to view in less than an hour were instrumental," she said.

Investigators believe they know the motive behind De Ronde's slaying, but aren't releasing it at this point since neither suspect has been charged, said Huffman.

Evidence from the ShotSpotter system and the city's public safety video cameras has been used in hundreds of cases since it was first installed four years ago, Allen said. It often corroborates other bits of evidence or assists investigators with solid proof of people's whereabouts, he said.

The city has 150 public safety video cameras citywide. At a news conference Thursday, Mayor R.T. Rybak said no city neighborhood has turned down the city's offer of installing them.

The ShotSpotter system has two areas of coverage, one in north Minneapolis and one in south Minneapolis. The audio and video systems work together thanks to engineers from both companies. Allen said he thinks that Minneapolis was the nation's first city to have the added video capability with ShotSpotter.

De Ronde, whose last known address was in Bloomington, died from a gunshot wound to his torso. He was killed at midday at the corner of 30th and Colfax Avenues N.

Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747 Bob von Sternberg • 612-673-7184

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