A man was shot to death Wednesday afternoon a few blocks from a school that was letting out for the day after a gunman or gunmen apparently opened fire on the vehicle he was riding in, authorities and witnesses said.

The victim, whose birth name and age weren’t released by police, was identified by relatives and friends only by his nickname, Lil’ Dee. He was pronounced dead at the scene, sometime after police responded to the shooting just north of Hwy. 55, between Penn and Oliver avenues N. about 3:30 p.m.

KG Wilson, a longtime local anti-violence activist, said he was related to Lil’ Dee, who was in his mid-20s.

The brazen daytime shooting happened as dozens of schoolchildren from nearby Seed Academy and Harvest Preparatory School were being dismissed for the day, witnesses said.

It’s unclear whether anyone else was injured in the shooting. A department spokesman would not comment on how many suspects they are looking for and provided no further details about the events leading up to the shooting.

Detectives are looking at the possibility that Wednesday’s incident was in retaliation for another shooting last week, in which someone sprayed a group of people with gunfire near Newton and 16th avenues N., killing one and wounding seven. That episode, authorities suspect, was tied to an ongoing gang war dating to last spring between the North Side’s “High-End” and “Low-End” factions — the “Highs,” made up of street gangs like Young N’ Thuggin’, Loud Pack and Taliban, hold territory in the northern half of north Minneapolis, while the “Lows,” which include the Stick Up Boys, Skitz Squad, Hitsquad and Valley Boys, have laid claim to the southern half.

As steady rain fell, a crowd of bystanders began to form outside the police tape less than an hour after the shooting. Grieving relatives and friends gathered on the median that divides the highway and took turns consoling the victim’s sister and mother-in-law. Detectives spent much of the afternoon combing the crime scene, which stretched two city blocks — one investigator crouched down to look for bullet holes in a red sports car that was abandoned in the 700 block of N. Penn Avenue, a block west of where the man’s body was found.

The victim appeared to have been shot while riding in the car and then again as he attempted to flee on foot.

A neighbor recalled hearing several volleys of gunfire before the red car screeched to a halt near his house.

Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla said that a No. 19 bus, which runs along Hwy. 55, was in the vicinity at the time of the incident, but no passengers were hit.

An earlier dispatch report quoted an officer saying there were 45 spent shell casings strewn across the street. A dispatcher later said the ShotSpotter network detected 13 gunshots and suggested there may have been multiple shooters.


Staff writer Liz Sawyer contributed to this report.