A 2-month-old boy was in critical but stable condition Friday after his teenage uncle shot him in the neck inside a north Minneapolis home, a story that felt too familiar to activists and others who’ve decried a grim series of local shootings that have killed or injured children.
The infant’s family initially told police that the child was shot by random gunfire as his father held him outside the home Thursday night but later admitted that the uncle shot him in what police have said was an accident.
“What is infuriating to me is having a gun in the house, with babies, and children. That’s what’s infuriating to me,” said Don Samuels, a City Council member and mayoral candidate who was holding a vigil outside the house through Saturday night.
The gun used in the shooting has not been recovered, and the shooter, whom the police say they know, remained at large. He is a juvenile in his late teens, according to police.
Teens armed with illegal guns, particularly handguns, were the subject of a lengthy Star Tribune series this year that showed how easy it is for juveniles to arm themselves through straw purchases, gun shows, thefts and gang contacts.
At a news conference Friday afternoon, Police Commander Catherine Johnson said she believes the shooting was accidental but didn’t provide details of what happened inside the duplex on the 2400 block of Emerson Avenue N.
Katie Phillips, who lives there, told reporters that several visitors, including the teen gunman, had stopped by to watch a football game on television. She wasn’t home at the time of the shooting and didn’t know exactly how it happened.
Based on interviews with the boy’s family, police initially believed that the boy’s father was shot at while standing on the street outside of his house and holding the boy. Police officers scoured the neighborhood looking for a shooter.
The family’s story changed later, however, when the father acknowledged that his son was shot inside the house by the boy’s uncle, who had a gun with him.
Police released the updated version of events Friday morning and said they were still searching for the juvenile.
“Investigators believe that this was an accidental shooting, no other suspects are being sought and the public is not at risk,” police said.
The baby was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. His identity was not released.
Phillips doesn’t allow guns in her home, describing it as “a safety zone,” she said. She added that she has not had police visit there since she moved in about a year ago.
‘That’s your nephew’
“It hurts, it does, but as far as I know I talked to the mother this morning, the baby’s still fine,” she said.
Phillips pleaded with the shooter to turn himself in. “That’s your nephew that you did that to,” she said.
Neighbors said they heard what sounded like a car door slamming, then police quickly arrived.
They said they saw the man holding the baby, who was not crying. Then they heard the mother saying, “My baby got shot? My baby got shot?”
The shooting alarmed Mary Johnson, the founder of the anti-violence group From Death to Life, not only because the victim was so young, but also because the shooter was a teenager. Guns are too easy to get, she said.
“The kids say, ‘Hey, I can knock on a door, and get a five dollar gun, a fifty dollar gun, a hundred dollar gun, but I got to walk a long ways to a store to get an apple,” she said. Johnson’s organization holds a prayer meeting on the second Saturday of each month, followed by a vigil at the Cub Foods on W. Broadway.
“If we could come together and do some things together, stand up together, we could bring some changes,” she said.