Alert on beatings, robberies went to businesses a week before fatal one but not to public.
Eight days before a man was knocked to the ground and killed in Minneapolis, police warned of similar attacks by young robbers in the area, distributing an alert to downtown businesses.
“Warn patrons … have your door monitors be aware …” the alert read, but it never went to the larger public via the Police Department’s crime alert e-mail system.
A more public alarm may not have made a difference for Adrian Hernandez, 44, a salon worker who was trailed by three young men down Hennepin Avenue early on the morning of Aug. 22. They followed him for five blocks. He died Sunday of his injuries suffered in the attack.
With robberies up dramatically over two years in Minneapolis, the crime fit a disturbing pattern that police had seen four times in August: a lone individual, often intoxicated, gets surrounded by three to five young men who then rob and sometimes assault their victims. Wallets and iPhones, which can fetch $200 on the streets, were typically taken. The attacks took place in a strip of downtown bounded by Marquette and 1st Avenues N. Men and women were targeted.
A civilian employee of the Police Department issued an alert to downtown businesses on Aug. 14 but did not issue a more broad “crime alert” to residents and others who subscribe to the service, which would have required the approval of a police inspector or lieutenant.
“Part of that decision was made because the target audience was outside of what we felt would be reached through normal delivery channels,” said Sgt. Bill Palmer, a department spokesman.
The typical downtown crowd includes people who live outside the city and may not subscribe to the e-mail crime alerts, he said.
Palmer said it’s also a balance the police try to strike between arming the public with information and not crying wolf.
If the police e-mail too many warnings, he said, people would just “delete, delete, delete.”
Striking a balance
Dan Collison, a downtown resident and president of the East Downtown Council, said he gets it that the police are trying to strike a balance. “I feel the police pressure to not make this feel unsafe. People get nervous about coming downtown, when they really shouldn’t,” said Collison, who said his family of four has safely lived downtown for four years.
Still, Collison said, he wished he had known about a robbery pattern. “As a resident and as a civic leader, I want to know it all,” he said.
Some downtown residents have moved forward with their own crime alert system, said David Tinjum, who lives in the Mill District neighborhood.
Later this year his neighbors will launch a communication network that will give them updates on all crimes within the neighborhood boundaries. It was developed with the aid of the Police Department, which Tinjum praised.
Still, Tinjum said, he didn’t know about the downtown robberies until reading about Hernandez’s death and wished he had known.
“We go out to eat or what have you, entertainment, all over downtown,” he said.
One jailed, two at large
In Hernandez’s case, the men who followed him talked among themselves about who would rob him and described him as “intoxicated” as they walked with him for five blocks, according to a court document. When they reached 10th Street and Hennepin Avenue S., one of the men known as “Big Loc” punched Hernandez once in the face, knocking him to the ground.