Closing-time shootings put Mpls. nightclubs back in glare

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 21, 2012 - 11:28 PM

Minneapolis cop fired at gunman, who apparently escaped unhurt.

Two people were shot early Monday near the Sexworld strip club in downtown Minneapolis, rekindling concerns about the mix of youth, guns and Warehouse district nightclubs just as warmer summer weather gets underway.

Neither victim was fatally injured, according to police, with one shot in the stomach and the other in a leg. A police officer who was on patrol nearby when shooting erupted at 2:25 a.m. fired once at the gunman, apparently missing, said Minneapolis police Sgt. Steve McCarty.

It's not believed the gunman was captured, he said.

Three people were arrested on misdemeanor charges near the scene of the shooting at 2nd Avenue N. and 3rd Street S. Two of them were released within hours. A third faces a court hearing Tuesday morning on a misdemeanor charge.

The police officer who fired at the gunman was put on routine three-day administrative leave, McCarty said.

The shooting comes almost exactly one year after a triple shooting in the same area lead to months of public conversation about the safety of downtown before city officials shut down a nightclub that was blamed for much of the troubles. That nightclub, Karma, remains closed, but others still draw thousands of people on weekend nights to an area along 1st and 2nd Avenues N.

Some of the most violent episodes downtown have occurred in the moments after the clubs' 2 a.m. closing time, when hundreds of people pour into the streets. Sunday nights have been particularly busy for police, when some clubs open their doors to anyone 18 years old or older.

First Precinct Inspector Eddie Frizell, who took over that post one week ago, said he's been studying downtown crime trends and plans to continue many of the same strategies put in place by his predecessor, Deputy Chief Kris Arneson.

"My first day was last Monday, and I immediately immersed myself in both the crime trends and crime patterns and trying to get a lay of the land in what downtown looks like and how it's transitioned in the last 14 to 15 months," Frizell said.

Previously, the Fifth Precinct inspector, Frizell returned last month from a year's posting in Iraq with the Minnesota National Guard.

He said video cameras, bright lights deployed to dark areas and the cooperation via radio of hundreds of security guards throughout downtown have helped keep crime down.

Violent crime has climbed sharply in downtown Minneapolis so far this year, likely as a result of the warm winter of 2012. With more people outside, this year has seen a 56 percent increase in violent crime downtown, from 151 incidents in the first 22 weeks of last year to 236 incidents in the same period this year, according to city statistics.

Ninety-four youth aged 24 and younger were injured in Minneapolis shootings last year, the lowest number in 10 years, according to a new city report. The same report says youth homicides climbed to 20 last year, the highest number in five years.

A quick exit to car's safety

A man who was out early Monday said at least one of the victims was shot near his parked car.

Stephen Thornton, 24, of Minneapolis, said he was walking back to his vehicle after clubs had closed when he came upon the crime scene.

"All I witnessed was, when I came around the corner, there was people laying on the concrete," he said. He didn't know the shooting victims, he said, but they fell near his vehicle, and a bullet smashed one of his car windows.

Thornton said he knows about the reputation of bar-closing time in the clubs area in downtown Minneapolis, but stays late anyway.

"When we get out of the club, we try to move to the car as quickly as we can," he said.

Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747

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