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Police arrest Uptown robbery suspects

  • Article by: MATT McKINNEY
  • Star Tribune
  • May 20, 2011 - 5:59 AM

Two men police say had roles in vicious beatings and robberies on pedestrians in Minneapolis' Uptown neighborhood have been arrested, a major break in an intensive police investigation of crimes that have rattled the area.

Just after 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, police arrested the first suspect, a 19-year-old man, at a house in the 3700 block of Stevens Avenue S.

About 4 p.m. Thursday, the second man, who is 21, was arrested when police pulled over a vehicle in the 3700 block of 1st Avenue S.

Both men are in the Hennepin County jail pending charges. The Star Tribune generally does not name suspects until they are charged.

The suspect arrested Wednesday is suspected in an April 28 robbery in the 2600 block of Colfax Av. S., in which a man walking alone was chased by two men, punched, knocked to the ground and kicked unconscious. The victim was then robbed of a laptop computer and other belongings.

Both suspects are expected to face charges in a dramatic May 10 robbery in which the victim, a Marine veteran, drew a concealed handgun and fired three shots after being severely beaten and robbed, sending his assailants fleeing.

Edward Curtis, 61, was attacked at about 10 p.m. that night in the 2500 block of Pillsbury Avenue S. as he got out of his car outside his apartment after an evening of playing bingo. He was struck on the head and shoulders, suffering fractures to his face and nose, then robbed of his wallet. The attack ended when he drew his handgun and fired; it's not known if he struck either attacker.

After the attack, Curtis said he was not proud of what he had done but felt he had no choice. "I thought they were going to kill me," he said. "They didn't get a chance to."

Curtis, whose actions police called justified, said at the time that though he knows some people might praise him, he was sorry to have to use his gun.

"I'm not that individual," he said. "I'm quiet. Life is precious. That's what I'm trying to say here."

Suspects have long records

At least four similar attacks in the Uptown or Whittier neighborhoods left victims unconscious or with severe head injuries, according to a bulletin from Crime Stoppers of Minnesota. The organization put up a $1,000 reward for information.

Some of the cases were so similar -- particularly in the level of violence used -- that police, paramedics and hospital staff told some of the victims that they suspected the same person or people were responsible.

Last week, attacks occurred with regularity, with one every night between May 7 and May 10. All occurred between 11:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. and all within a few blocks of each other. The victims said they were punched in the head, often from behind, and beaten severely even after they gave up their belongings. Two victims said they were hit with brass knuckles or perhaps a telescoping baton.

One victim, an Aikido enthusiast who said he's been hit in the head many times while practicing his sport, said the hit he took when he was robbed May 11 was far worse than anything he'd ever encountered.

Up to four suspects

Some of the victims described up to four suspects, men between the ages of 20 and 30, wearing black hooded sweatshirts.

The man arrested on Wednesday was convicted of robbery in a 2009 case and sentenced to 23 months at St. Cloud prison, according to court records. He also faced a felony charge of first-degree burglary and fifth-degree assault in 2008. He was discharged from probation on that case early last month.

The suspect arrested on Thursday afternoon was released from St. Cloud on Jan. 13 after serving part of an almost-three-year sentence for first-degree burglary and assault with a firearm. He was scheduled to be on supervised release until October.

Before he was 18, he was convicted of financial transaction card fraud, receiving stolen property and fleeing police. He also currently is on probation in Ramsey County on an auto theft conviction.

Police would still like to hear from anyone who has information on any of the Uptown robberies. To provide a tip, call 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), text TIP674 plus your information to 274637 (CRIMES), or visit www.crimestoppersmn.org and click on "Give a Tip."

Staff writers Anthony Lonetree and Pat Pheifer contributed to this report. Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747

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