Police are investigating whether a stray bullet may have traveled over five blocks and an interstate highway before hitting 11-year-old Jasmine Krebs in the leg.
For Jasmine Krebs, the evening of Sept. 11 started out like any other.
After finishing her homework and chatting on WeeWorld.com, a social-networking site for kids, the 11-year-old ran outside in her pajamas to look for a toy she left behind her family's backyard swimming pool on the 3200 block of 1st Av. S. in Minneapolis.
Then, around 7 p.m., came the sound of Jasmine screaming, "I've been shot! I've been shot!" Jasmine stood in the back doorway clutching the leg of her leopard-print pajama bottoms. Right away, Jasmine's mother, Erin Krebs, 32, knew her daughter wasn't pretending. "It was a scream I'll never forget," Krebs said.
Jasmine was in good condition Saturday and was recovering with a small leg wound at her grandmother's house in North Dakota. But serious questions remain about how a bullet could have found its way into the Krebs backyard -- a yard surrounded by a tall fence -- without nearby residents seeing a shooter or hearing gunshots. Erin recalls hearing a loud clank and some pigeons scattering off a nearby roof -- but nothing that resembled gunshots.
However, a Minneapolis Police Department spokesman said Jasmine's injury came at almost the same moment that police received reports of multiple gunshots at Richard Green Central Park in the 3300 block of 4th Av. S.. Police are investigating whether the incidents are linked. Improbable as it may sound, the bullet that hit Jasmine may have traveled over at least five blocks of houses and trees, Interstate Hwy. 35W and the Krebs' backyard fence, before falling from the sky and hitting Jasmine in the calf, according to police.
Police have taken photos of a lone bullet hole in the Krebs' pool and have kept Jasmine's bloodied pajama bottoms for evidence. Jasmine's wound was a quarter-inch deep; she was released from Hennepin County Medical Center late Thursday. "We may never know for 100 percent certainty what happened that night," Erin Krebs said.
But some residents on the other side of I-35W believe a connection is possible. Shooting incidents have become a regular occurrence in and around Richard Green Central Park, and some residents say it was only a matter of time before a stray bullet injured someone -- even if that person was five blocks and several highway lanes away. Residents said they heard between 10 and 20 gunshots Thursday night, a barrage that left bullet holes in at least two houses adjacent to Richard Green.
One nearby resident, who declined to share his name for fear of becoming a target of gang violence, said he and his family dropped to the floor and crawled away from the windows as soon as they heard the gunfire. He later found four bullet holes in his house, including one lodged in the siding next to his front window. "This has got to change," said Della Meschures, a Central Neighborhood block leader. "We are living in a life-threatening environment."
The gun violence has made many in this neighborhood fearful of venturing into the park, particularly after dark. Last fall, community leaders tried to organize monthly "movie nights" at Richard Green. But neighborhood leaders and park officials canceled the event after the sound of gunfire interrupted one movie, causing parents and children to flee. "You can't imagine the terror," Meschures said. "It was awful."
Though still a mystery, Jasmine's wound may be the latest in a string of injuries involving stray bullets and children. Early last month, a 5-month-old girl was hit by a stray bullet after a shooting at Powderhorn Park. Police said the girl was being held by her grandmother at the time she was hit. Many residents in south Minneapolis still remember the 2002 death of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards, who was hit with a bullet while doing her homework at the dining-room table with her little sister. The bullet went through the wall of their Minneapolis home.
For now, Erin Krebs wants to believe it was all just a freak incident and she's hoping her daughter will return to her regular routine of school, swimming classes and homework. Even so, Krebs says, she plans to "keep a watchful eye" on her daughter while she's playing outside; and she won't mind if Jasmine decides to stay indoors for a while, watching movies or playing board games with her mom, before venturing outside to play with her neighbors.
"I'm not going to push her," she said.
On Friday, the morning after the incident, Erin thought she would bolster her daughter's confidence by reminding her that the bullet likely came from blocks away, and that it was still safe to go outside. "I told her that what happened here is just a once-in-a-million thing," she said. "But Jasmine's a smart little girl, and she said, 'Thanks, Mom, but you weren't the one who got shot.'"
Chris Serres • 612-673-4308