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Metro Gang Strike Force outflanks planned confrontation

  • April 15, 2009 - 9:36 PM

Flaunting gang colors and armed with a gun, a group of gang members from Minneapolis headed to a bar in St. Paul Tuesday night to confront a rival gang, authorities said.

It might sound like something out of the musical "West Side Story," but the Metro Gang Strike Force said it's a problem that they're seeing more often.

"There's been a lot of tensions between these two groups," said Sgt. Randy Olson, a supervisor with the strike force. "This conglomeration decided they were going to drive to St. Paul and throw it in [the rival gang's] face ... and they wanted to make sure they were armed."

What the gang members didn't know was that strike force members had been planning their own confrontation. Before the group even left Minneapolis, strike force members jumped in, stopping the car with the suspected weapon shortly after midnight. The driver, a known gang member, led police on a 10-minute chase across north Minneapolis before crashing. He was arrested for fleeing police and on weapons charges.

"There's no doubt in my mind there would have been a shootout in St. Paul," Olson said.

Gangs are becoming less formal about their membership and are frequently traveling to other cities, Olson said. The group from Minneapolis consisted of members from several gangs who figured "we'll become twice as big if we join forces," Olson said.

While the strike force's operation Tuesday wasn't unusual, Olson said the organization's new commander, Hennepin County Sheriff's Capt. Chris Omodt, wants to highlight the good work that they do. The strike force was recently criticized for sending six members to a training conference in Hawaii at an expense of nearly $17,000.

LORA PABST

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