Son didn't know attackers, father says

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 8, 2011 - 10:13 PM

Minneapolis police are still searching for the teenager who shot Josiah Taylor, 17, on Sunday.

For the past three years, Kemen Taylor sought to fill the free time of his teenage son, Josiah, with healthy activities -- being mentored, working a part-time job and studying the Bible -- through Youth Enterprise, a Minneapolis nonprofit he runs to help young people on the North Side learn business skills and stay out of trouble.

But on Sunday afternoon, riding his bike to his girlfriend's house, 17-year-old Josiah was shot three times and critically wounded after an argument with a group of teenagers.

Kemen Taylor says Josiah, who is recovering from his wounds at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, didn't know his attackers.

"Investigators are still trying to piece together what exactly happened," said Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. Steve McCarty, adding that officers have not ruled out the possibility that the incident was a random attack. "It's more often than not that victims and suspects know each other. We have to look at all avenues."

Josiah had hopped on his orange Mongoose bike after church Sunday and pedaled around the corner to his girlfriend's house at the corner of 22nd and Dupont Avenues N.

Josiah didn't back down when one of the teens who confronted him, egged on by his friends, flashed a gun. Then the teen flashed the gun again, and at close range fired four bullets at Josiah. One hit him in the arm and two struck him in the back as he fled, witnesses said.

"How cowardly is it when you gotta shoot someone in the back?" Kemen Taylor said Monday.

Josiah is able to sit up and mumble a few words. "He's going to be all right," a relieved Kemen Taylor said. "But I don't know what we could have done differently."

The four young suspects fled the scene on their bikes after the shooting, and as of Monday evening, police had arrested no suspects, McCarty said.

The incident has sparked a discussion among men in the neighborhood about their teenage boys' safety and their access to guns, Kemen Taylor said. "These aren't some old raggedy guns these kids have," he said.

"These kids need something to do," said Steven Russell Jackson a longtime North Side resident who watched Josiah grow up and who was one of the first to come to his aid Sunday. "There's got to be a better way to somehow track [neighborhood youths] from childhood to adulthood," he said. "We've got to find a way to put them into a better circle."

Jackson said he recently started a youth basketball and mentor program that he was trying to get Josiah involved in.

Kemen Taylor said his son hasn't been especially successful in school but that he is not a troubled youth.

"That's just the way it is in this neighborhood," Taylor said. "It's the gunplay. ... My son should be able to ride his bike to his girlfriend's house without getting shot. If they're in a group, the police think they're in a gang and they want to arrest them for loitering. That's not a gang. That's them trying to be safe."

Daarel Burnette II• 651-735-1695 Twitter: @DaarelStrib

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