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Continued: Minneapolis community leaders fear rash of violence

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 28, 2010 - 11:29 PM

Multiple shootings over the weekend in Minneapolis, including an incident in which a gunman boarded a Metro Transit bus and shot two teens, have community leaders worried that a new wave of violence may be building on city streets.

Two men were shot and wounded on Sunday, and on Saturday night, less than 24 hours after 17-year-old Alisha Neeley was killed outside a north Minneapolis party, the teens on the bus were shot near the intersection of Humboldt Avenue N. and 53rd Street. Both were taken to North Memorial Medical Center with injuries that were not life-threatening, according to Bob Gibbons, a Metro Transit spokesman.

Portia McClain of Minneapolis said her grandson was one of the two teenagers who were shot. He was near home and coming back from getting a haircut when the incident took place, she said.

"They're not letting anybody see him," McClain said, adding that she didn't think there was a motive for the shooting.

Gibbons, however, said videotape from the Route 22 bus carrying 12 passengers showed the suspect boarding the bus about 10:35 p.m. Saturday, walking over to the teens, engaging in a brief conversation and opening fire. The driver pulled over and opened the door to avoid trapping passengers and the suspect fled.

The other Sunday shootings included a man found seriously wounded in an apartment complex at 2312 Blaisdell Av. S. about 6:30 a.m. and a man in his 20s shot at least once in the back about 1 p.m. Sunday at W. Broadway and Bryant Avenue N. He suffered injuries that were not life-threatening and declined to identify his attacker, said Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. William Palmer.

A teen was also shot and wounded in St. Paul Sunday afternoon.

Police aren't sure if any or all of the shootings are connected, but the string of violence clearly shook authorities and community leaders.

"I am really torn apart by what has been going on," said K.G. Wilson, founder and president of Hope Ministries and spokesman for the Charez Jones Foundation. "Usually, it's like a domino effect."

Wilson and Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels said they believe Neeley's death could be the result of gang activity, and the return of gang members released from jail or prison. Gang members often show up at parties where rival gang members are present and fire guns at random to intimidate them, said Wilson, a former gang leader.

"Their mission was to promote fear," he said.

Wilson and Samuels called for police and community leaders and members to support each other, provide more funding and programming for teenagers and to create stronger, active neighborhoods.

There are no arrests in any of the cases, and authorities have not discussed possible motives, but they assured residents that they were taking the assaults seriously.

"The escalation of violence in north Minneapolis over the weekend is unacceptable, and at the forefront of our public safety direction and concern," said Deputy Chief Janeé Harteau. "The community should know that we are putting every effort and resource possible into preventing further violence, and to bringing the person who killed [Neeley] to justice."

Police are stepping up patrols in the area.

Mourning his daughter Sunday, Alisha Neeley's father called on his neighbors to learn from her death.

"I think people just got to want to do better," Albert Neeley said. "I think if you were going to learn from something like this, it would've been learned. That many kids have died."

Police believe Neeley was an innocent victim when she was shot in the neck about 11:45 p.m. Friday outside a house party on 35th Avenue N. between Humboldt and Irving avenues. She was standing outside with 60 to 100 people when she was struck, said Palmer, adding that it's unclear whether someone else in the group was the target.

Wilson likened Neeley's death to the fatal shooting of Charez Jones, a 14-year-old who was caught in the middle of gang gunfire in 2007 as she left a party at 33rd and Humboldt Avenues N., just blocks from where, on Sunday, balloons, roses, teddy bears, a bottle of New Amsterdam gin and a pink birthday cake marked where Neeley was shot.

The girls lived on the same street in north Minneapolis, and Neeley's on-again, off-again boyfriend, Kenneth Dillard, 19, was the prime suspect in Jones' death until a witness stepped forward to suggest it was someone else. Dillard was a member of the Tre Tre Crips gang at the time, according to police records.

Like her father, Alisha's mentor at Urban Youth Conservation, Ferome Brown, described her as a tough, street-smart girl who loved to dance, socialize with friends and help out at the Oak Park Neighborhood Center in north Minneapolis. She hoped to one day help girls dealing with gang and drug problems and was going to enroll in a transitional school soon, Brown said.

"She was going to be one of those girls that was going to make it, you know?" Brown said. "Very street-savvy, wasn't scared of anything."

The violence that ended Neeley's life didn't stop Friday. At a memorial service for her Saturday at the crime scene, gunfire rang out nearby, scattering mourners. Wilson said he thinks it was caused by gang members he saw in the area. Neeley is the 10th homicide victim in Minneapolis this year. Last year, there were six homicides in the first six months.

And, coincidentally, people in the area heard more shots Sunday afternoon.

In St. Paul, a 17- or 18-year-old was sitting in a car with two other people when he was shot once about 2 p.m. in the 800 block of Fremont Avenue, said police spokesman Sgt. Paul Schnell. The victim, who police believe was the target, was taken to Regions Hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.

Staff writers Heron Marquez-Estrada and Bill McAuliffe contributed to this report. Chao Xiong • 612-673-4391

PLEAS FOR HELP

Anyone with information about Alisha Neeley's death or the other shootings can call Minneapolis police at 612-692-8477. Anyone with information about the bus shooting can call Metro Transit Police at 612-349-7222.

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