While police and city officials try to reassure Brooklyn Park citizens, a suspect remains at large in last month's triple homicide.
Eight bundles of flowers, left beside DeLois Brown's mailbox after she and her elderly parents were shot to death five weeks ago, have browned and wilted. A deflated balloon lies nearby.
Little appears to have changed since James Bolden's sister and parents were killed at Brown's Brooklyn Park home day-care on April 9. Police say there is no threat to the immediate neighborhood and that an investigation continues. But, while charges were filed against suspects in two other shooting deaths that jolted Brooklyn Park last month, no arrest has been made in the triple homicide that has neighbors wondering and Bolden on edge.
"This is crazy, baffling," said Bolden, who said he has yet to enter his sister's house since the shootings.
"Somebody did this. Somebody planned it. Somebody reported to the police that they saw the suspect. But the police haven't arrested anybody. And they haven't given me any indication that they have a suspect in mind."
The green Blazer that James Bolden Sr., 83, and Clover Bolden, 81, drove from suburban St. Louis when they moved in with Brown, 59, six days before the shootings, has not moved from the driveway in weeks, neighbors say. Tricycles and wagons under Brown's deck appear untouched. Dandelions have sprouted.
Neighborhood nerves easing
But neighbors who say they were reluctant for weeks to walk the end block of College Park Drive, where Brown lived, have resurfaced.
"People are sitting in their front yards, walking their dogs and taking their babies out in strollers again," said Mary Sodren, 56. "We applaud the police for their efforts. We feel safe. We know they're doing their best."
Elisha Johnson, 20, said that for two weeks she was looking over her shoulder when she went for walks.
"I was jittery, being extra careful," she said. "But we're seeing a lot of patrol cars in the area. I think they're going out of their way to let the community know that we're safe."
Some residents aren't relying solely on the police. At a community meeting last month, Chris Christopherson, 35, said the triple shooting was a "wake-up call" to the neighborhood. Since then, he has worked to revive a crime-watch group in his area that had been inactive for several years.
"If we're going to take this neighborhood back, we're going to have to do it as residents," he said.
Mayor: 'Bad week,' not a trend
The five shooting deaths last month matched the homicide total in Brooklyn Park for all of last year. But Brooklyn Park police inspector Todd Milburn is quick to note that four of last year's killings were domestic related, and are not indicative of any crime pattern.
The police believe Brown's house was targeted. A male suspect was seen near the house by a mother dropping off her young son just minutes before the shooting took place. The suspect was described as a black man in his 20s, who was wearing a blue jacket over a gray hooded sweatshirt and rode away on a BMX-style bicycle. Authorities are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Forty-one hours after Brown and her parents were killed, Ashantai Nicole Finch, 32, was shot to death in what authorities have described as a domestic dispute. Dymond Rene Hayden, 19, who was staying with Finch, was charged with murder.
"A bad week," Brooklyn Park Mayor Jeffrey Lunde called it. "There's no good way to put it, other than calling it a bad week."
He noted that violent crime in Brooklyn Park has fallen for six consecutive years. In 2006, there were 362 violent crimes in the city; in 2011, there were 260.
"In this case," Lunde said, "one house was targeted and the other [shooting] was a domestic. Things happen by chance. There is no indication of a trend."
Lunde said it is the latest shooting death, in which 16-year-old Terrence Tramaine Creamer was shot in the head April 24 at Central Park, that has generated the most e-mails to City Hall, possibly because it involved teenagers and happened in a public setting: south of 85th Avenue N., between Regent and Noble avenues.
Murder charge filed
Creamer died April 29. Deshawn Deaondre Roberts, 18, who knew Creamer and was among a group of young people at the park for a barbecue that night, has been charged with second-degree murder.
Both Lunde and Milburn were emphatic in saying they do not believe Brooklyn Park has a gang problem.
"You stay to yourself and don't talk stuff and you're OK, even if a group of guys come around," said Davontay Johnson, 19, of Brooklyn Park, who played basketball recently on the Central Park courts, close to where Creamer was shot.
"Stuff is going to happen," Johnson said. "It's not gangs. It's just stuff."
With 105 police officers, the Brooklyn Park force has grown proportionately with the state's sixth-largest city, whose population is approaching 80,000. The police have forged relationships with at-risk kids and have orchestrated community meetings, like the one held April 11, after the first two shootings.
James Bolden, who lives next door to the home in which Finch was killed and is struggling to get over the shock of losing his parents and sister, knows the police are trying.
"I want answers," he said. "I want to know what's going on."
Staff writer Nicole Norfleet contributed to this report. Paul Levy 612-673-4419