Two people were fatally shot in the Twin Cities over the weekend, continuing a spike in violence in both cities and further propelling St. Paul toward a record-breaking year for homicides.

And with three months to go, Minneapolis is already ahead of last year’s number of killings at this point.

Some people said Sunday that they’ve started avoiding downtown Minneapolis at night, and others are going a step further.

“This is happening in both cities, unfortunately, and it seems like it’s getting worse,” Crystal Walker, 28, said as she walked near the site of the Minneapolis killing. She works at a nearby Pizza Hut and shares custody of her daughter with the girl’s father in St. Paul. “We want to get out.”

Within an hour Saturday night, one person was fatally shot in downtown Minneapolis’ theater district and another on St. Paul’s East Side.

A suspect was arrested Sunday in the Minneapolis slaying but no arrests were made in the St. Paul case.

Twenty-three people have been killed in St. Paul so far this year, just one short of its deadliest year in the past decade — 24 for all of 2017. Thirty-two people have been murdered in Minneapolis so far this year.

Violence is ‘all over’

The shooting in St. Paul comes in the wake of an already violent month that prompted Police Chief Todd Axtell to beef up patrols across the city to cope with what he called an unprecedented surge in homicides.

On Sunday morning, two surgical gloves left by police near the intersection of Earl Street and Hudson Road marked where the victim was gunned down about 11:15 Saturday night. It’s across from a liquor store and a bar, just feet from the wall separating Interstate 94 from businesses.

“That’s a shock because that never happens here,” said Munis Wagi, who owns M&A Market in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood, just a few hundred feet from the killing.

Another homicide, however, happened on the same block in winter 2017, and there’s a bullet hole from a separate incident in the wall at the nearby St. Paul Saloon.

Jane Prince, the St. Paul City Council member representing the Seventh Ward, called the shooting “tragic” and “really personal” since she lives nearby.

“It feels like home,” she said of the area. “Those are bars that I go to. Those are businesses that we use.”

She said that she and police meet monthly with businesses near where the shooting occurred to discuss safety. With the exception of one house that police have their eye on, she thinks things are getting better, not worse, in the neighborhood.

But longtime resident Robert Persons disagrees. He said he was mugged twice last year in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred.

People lurk in the doorways and on corners, he said, and he no longer walks around at night.

“Don’t trust ’em at all,” he said of the people in the neighborhood. “I don’t know if 400 more cops are going to help or not.”

Deana Schuh, who has sold pulltabs at the St. Paul Saloon for three years, said the violence is widespread in the city: “It’s all over,” she said.

St. Paul has experienced a wave of bloodshed in a short period, police spokesman Steve Linders said, with eight other homicides occurring in September alone.

The positive thing, he said, is that residents are “galvanized around the idea that this is not OK.”

Linders believes that the St. Paul victim and suspect knew each other.

Action urged

Saturday night’s shooting in Minneapolis continues a pattern of crime in downtown that is driving away some who used to frequent the area’s bars, theaters and clubs.

In Minneapolis, a 911 call about 10:20 p.m. Saturday alerted officers to a man bleeding and in the street at Hennepin Avenue and S. 8th Street, said police spokeswoman Cyndi Barrington. The man, identified as Enzo Santiago Herrera Garcia, 21, of Apple Valley, died at HCMC from a gunshot wound in the chest. Police said a physical altercation likely preceded the shooting.

A 23-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder late Sunday morning after police and the State Patrol followed the man’s vehicle and he surrendered without incident in Minneapolis. The Star Tribune generally does not identify suspects before they are charged.

Police spokesman John Elder said investigators were still sorting out whether the shooter and Garcia knew each other.

The number of shootings in Minneapolis’ First Precinct, which includes downtown, is up from last year. According to police, most of the gunfire takes place in Downtown West, the district where many theaters, bars and restaurants are located, as well as Target Center and Target Field.

Barrington acknowledged “significant crimes” had occurred downtown and said the Police Department was “actively and aggressively” using its resources to address them.

Finding nightlife elsewhere

Even those who once loved heading to Hennepin Avenue for a night out have been going elsewhere in recent months.

Travon Sellers, 27, said he and friends used to head to the bars and clubs in the area nearly every weekend. Since a shooting injured two people on the rooftop of Crave American Kitchen & Sushi Bar in mid-July, Sellers has chosen to spend more nights at home or at bars near Uptown.

“It definitely swayed me,” he said after meeting friends for Sunday brunch near the intersection where Saturday night’s shooting occurred. Sellers said he also worries about what tourists or visitors to the city might think of downtown.

“Major cities have these concerns,” he said. “I’ve really started thinking about what impression this gives of Minneapolis.”

Cortez Hollis, 31, said he hopes the recent violence leads to conversation about preventive solutions. He, too, has changed his habits since the Crave shooting and tends to avoid the downtown clubs at night.

“It’s sad because these events take away from what are good businesses downtown,” he said.

He has several texts in his phone from friends who were downtown when violence erupted. “Everyone should be shocked by this. There needs to be something done.”

 

Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.