A fatal shooting in north Minneapolis over the weekend marked two tragic milestones.
It was the 25th slaying of the year amid a surge of violence citywide that included two other shootings Saturday and early Sunday.
And it happened two years after the victim’s brother was shot to death, leaving a family reeling anew on Sunday.
Friends and relatives identified the victim as Ky’reon Watkins, as police investigated what is thought to be a gang-related slaying.
The incident occurred around 8:30 Saturday when police said an off-duty officer working a private security job heard a gunshot from the corner of N. 21st and Aldrich avenues — an area with such a reputation for trouble that residents have taken to calling a nearby gas station by a grim nickname: the “Murder Station.”
Responding officers searched the area without finding a victim, but a short time later Watkins was dropped off at a nearby hospital with gunshot wounds to the head, according to officials and police radio transmissions. He was placed on life support before dying that same night, officials said.
No arrests had been announced as of Sunday evening.
Authorities have not publicly named Watkins as the victim, but relatives identified the 23-year-old father of infant twins in social media postings. He died about a month shy of his 24th birthday.
On Facebook, relatives said his slaying coincided with the two-year anniversary of his brother’s death, from which they said Watkins had never quite recovered.
The brother, Hae’veon Wesley, a former football standout at Patrick Henry High School was killed outside a Crystal gas station in August 2017, after grabbing a gun from a friend that accidentally went off, authorities said.
On Sunday, expressions of grief flooded the Facebook page of the brothers’ mother, whose profile picture was still a photo of her and Wesley, in full uniform and pads, after one of his high school games.
One woman who wrote on the mother’s Facebook page asked her followers to keep the family in their prayers, while another posted: “No mother Deserves This Pain!!!!”
Messages left for relatives on social media Sunday went unreturned, and no one answered when a reporter knocked on the door of an address listed for the mother.
On Watkins’ own Facebook page, he is holding a bottle to one of his 3-month-old twins, while standing next to their mother, who is holding the other baby. In other pictures, he is standing next to Quayshaun Felton, a 16-year-old boy who was shot dead in north Minneapolis last month.
“Dam lil bro I love you, u just called my phone this morning never would of expected this,” Watkins wrote in a caption on the photo, using an expletive.
Court records paint a more complicated picture of Watkins.
They show that Watkins was on probation at the time of his death after pleading guilty to two unrelated shootings. In one, as a 14-year-old, he admitted to firing at a gunman who had shot two of his friends; then while on temporary release after his arrest for that shooting, he showed up uninvited at an eighth-grade graduation party and shot and critically wounded one of the partygoers.
His criminal record shows no other convictions.
Based on the preliminary investigation, police were looking into the possibility that his death was the result of an ongoing gang war, after receiving information that Watkins or someone else involved had ties to the Young ‘N Thuggin’, or YNT, gang. Otherwise, they have released few details about Watkins’ slaying, which happened during a violent weekend in Minneapolis.
In the first attack, a 43-year-old woman told police she had just left a home at 37th Street and Clinton Avenue S., when a gunman opened fire on the car she was riding in, hitting her in the arm and torso, police said. The incident happened just before 6 p.m. Saturday.
Then, about 2:05 a.m. Sunday, officers responding to a ShotSpotter activation near the corner of 21st Street and Elliot Avenue S. found a woman, 30, who had been shot in the leg, police said. A short time later, a second victim, a 23-year-old woman, was dropped off at HCMC with a gunshot wound to the leg.
No arrests have been made in either case.
Star Tribune staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.