Robbers attack armed man in Uptown

Police say brazen robbers have struck again in Uptown, jumping a former Marine. The victim was armed and fired several shots.

A pair of brazen and violent robbers struck again Tuesday night, only this time their victim was armed, Minneapolis police said.

Edward A. Curtis, 61, was attacked as he stepped out of his car in the 2500 block of Pillsbury Avenue S., in the Whittier neighborhood. Curtis, who described himself to police as a former Marine, pulled a gun and fired several shots at his assailants and may have winged one, said police Lt. Mike Fossum.

"He had just parked his car in the parking lot," Fossum said. "These guys blitzed him. They just started kicking his ass. He managed to get off three rounds."

The suspects, one a heavyset Hispanic man and another thinner Hispanic man, ran off but may have been injured, police said. Their description and method match that of three other violent robberies that have taken place in the past few days, all within a few blocks of each other in the Uptown area.

Zach Nyhus, 31, was on the phone with friends about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday when he looked out the window of his third-floor apartment and saw Curtis down on the sidewalk.

Seconds later, he said, he heard gunshots -- pop, pop, pop -- and looked out again in time to see a man running off.

"The victim starts hollering, 'Help me! Help me, please! Help me!" Nyhus said.

As he called 911, Nyhus said he saw a gun in the victim's hand.

"I shouted, 'Man, the police are coming, put the gun down!" Nyhus said.

Nyhus said he saw that Curtis was bleeding when he sat down on the front stoop of the building.

"Apparently there was a third guy, but I didn't see that guy," Nyhus said. "I just saw the victim and the one guy who ran away."

Tuesday's incident, the fourth, was just a few blocks to the north and east of three others in the Uptown area since Sunday. Police spokesman Sgt. Bill Palmer said police are investigating whether the attacks are related. The first happened early Sunday in the 1200 block of W. 28th Street as a 25-year-old man and a friend walked home from a party. About 24 hours later, two men walking in the 2500 block of Colfax Avenue S. were attacked and robbed at 12:03 a.m. Monday. The next night, at 11:28 p.m. Monday, another man and his friend were attacked in the 900 block of W. 32nd Street.

The first three attacks prompted Fifth Precinct police to issue a crime alert Tuesday afternoon warning Uptown residents about the robberies.

"These are just brazen, cowardly attacks," Fossum said. The robberies appear very similar to a rash of robberies in Dinkytown starting in late February. Fossum said it's possible the same group is responsible for those cases as well.

Fossum urged witnesses to call 911 if they see people fighting on the street.

Nyhus said the attacks won't scare him out of the neighborhood, but he'll probably be more cautious about going out, especially at night.

"I don't feel any motivation to go out and buy a gun or pepper spray or anything," he said. "I still consider this a safe neighborhood, I'm just more aware that there are unsafe people out there."

mckinney@startribune.com • 612-217-1747 ppheifer@startribune.com • 612-673-7252

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