As teen is mourned, bullets fly in north Minneapolis

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 2, 2010 - 4:18 PM

As friends on Saturday mourned the death 17-year-old Alisha Neeley, more shots were fired. No one was hurt, and no one was in custody in the city's 10th slaying of the year.

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Alisha Neeley’s older sister, Helena Neely, approached a memorial site as Kenneth Dillard sobbed. “I’m sorry, I should have been there for her,” Dillard said repeatedly to the sister. Shooting victim Alisha Neeley is Minneapolis’ 10th homicide victim this year. There were 19 in all of 2009.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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Young mourners at the north Minneapolis scene of an overnight shooting that killed a teenage girl found themselves fleeing gunfire Saturday afternoon.

Although no one was hurt in that hail of bullets fired in the area by unknown parties for unknown reasons, it was a stark reminder that the kind of gun violence that took the life of 17-year-old Alisha Neeley can be a frequent hazard for residents of some areas of the North Side.

Not that anyone gathered Saturday at the scene near 35th and Irving Avenues needed such a reminder.

Neeley was standing with a large group of teenagers on 35th Avenue N. between Humboldt and Irving Avenues when she was shot in the neck.

"She said, 'I'm hit, I'm hit!' and she just fell," said Kenneth Dillard, 19, who said he had dated Neeley off and on.

The shooting victim, who lived in the 3200 block of Aldrich Avenue N., was taken to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, where she was pronounced dead. She would have turned 18 next month. Her family could not be reached for comment Saturday.

As of Saturday night, no one had been arrested, and police said they did not have enough information to say whether the bullet that struck Neeley was randomly fired or whether she and her friends were targets. Homicide investigators were asking anyone with information to call 612-692-8477.

It was Minneapolis' 10th homicide of 2010, just weeks into the year. In the first six months of 2009, Minneapolis had only six homicides, and in that entire year, there were only 19 homicides, a 50 percent reduction from the previous year and the city's lowest in a quarter-century.

Neeley's death came on the heels of a fatal stabbing almost two weeks earlier in the 3800 block of Dupont Avenue N. But the killing has been spread across the city, including a triple slaying at a market in the Seward neighborhood of south Minneapolis.

Gina Palmer, who lives across the street from the shooting scene, said Saturday that she saw no signs of violence in the moments leading up to Friday night's shooting. While there was a large group of teenagers on the street, no one was fighting, she said.

"I was laying on the couch and shots rang out -- pow, pow, pow," said Palmer, who moved into the Folwell neighborhood last fall.

She ran to her upstairs bedroom and looked out on the street and saw Neeley on the ground.

"Her friends were just out of their minds, like, 'Oh my God!'" Palmer said.

Other neighbors said that after the shooting, many of the young people on the street ran, some of them up Humboldt Avenue.

Impromptu memorial

On Saturday afternoon, carloads of teenagers stopped by the alley to mourn. Balloons, flowers and teddy bears decorated a light pole near where Neeley fell. Cards signed by "Drip Drop" and "Princess Shay" read "I miss you," and "R.I.P." A young man who stepped out of his car left a card, then sat down in a driveway and cried.

"Somebody knows something," said Monique Sanders, who stood with several others as cars of teenagers came and went. She said she had known Neeley since grade school.

Some of the young mourners spoke between puffs on hand-rolled cigarettes that smelled of marijuana.

"I'm so mad; I'm so mad," said one girl.

"This ain't no ordinary crime," said Dillard, who had identified himself as Neeley's on-again, off-again boyfriend.

Three years ago, Dillard was the prime suspect in the shooting of Charez Jones, 14, killed as she walked home from a birthday party.

Dillard, at the time a member of the Tre Tre Crips gang, according to police records, was allegedly shooting at rival gang members when Jones was hit. He was to stand trial as an adult, but was freed in 2008 when a new witness stepped forward to suggest that someone else was the shooter. Several other witnesses in that case had recanted earlier testimony against Dillard.

On Saturday, Dillard said he last saw Neeley a week ago at Cream, a nightclub in downtown Minneapolis.

"I didn't get to talk to her," he said, adding that he regretted that.

"She didn't deserve this," he said. "She was the best ever. ... She was my heart. Everything, man," he said.

Someone has to get the guns off the streets, a bystander said to him.

"Got to," he said.

A few hours later, gunshots rang out near the intersection where Neeley died. The teenagers scattered, and police soon blocked off the street to search for a possible weapon.

Staff writer Vince Tuss contributed to this report. Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329

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