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Helen Taylor shed tears during a prayer vigil held Sunday in the 3800 block of north 6th street, where her first cousin Donate Johnson was shot to death. Johnson was the first Minneapolis homicide victim of 2010. The vigil was held by The PEACE Foundation and MADDADS.

Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

Brother of victim Anwar Salah Mohammed, Fethi Mohammed talked to reporters following the Sunday afternoon press conference at Minneapolis City Hall.

David Brewster, Star Tribune

Brother of victim Anwar Salah Mohammed, Fethi Mohammed talked to reporters following the Sunday afternoon press conference at Minneapolis City Hall.

David Brewster, Star Tribune

2010's violent start unsettles city

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG and JEAN HOPFENSPERGER
  • Star Tribune s t aff w r iters
  • January 11, 2010 - 5:48 AM

A second 17-year-old is under arrest in connection with the triple homicide at a Minneapolis market, capping a violent start to 2010 that has included five killings and a toddler wounded by a stray bullet.

Police believe they now have the two male suspects who were caught on surveillance video inside Seward Market and Halal Meats at E. Franklin and 25th Avenues S. when three men were fatally shot about 7:45 p.m. Wednesday. The first suspect, also a 17-year-old, was arrested Saturday and the second youth surrendered late Saturday night. Police said they expect charges to be filed early in the week against the teens, both from Minneapolis but whose names were not released.

The second arrest was announced Sunday afternoon, at about the same time as community members gathered in north Minneapolis at a vigil for Dontae Johnson, the city's first homicide victim of the year.

The arrest was welcomed by the East African community, which police and Mayor R.T. Rybak said was instrumental in the investigation.

"It's good news," said a teary-eyed Fethi Mohammed, whose brother, Anwar Mohammed, was killed in the shooting. "It's a good start, but we need to know more."

Police have not discussed a possible motive in the shooting, and have declined to say whether any money was taken from the market. Abdifatah Warfa, who was working in the market at the time, his cousin Mohamed Warfa, who was bringing him tea, and customer Anwar Mohammed were killed. Sources said that Mohammed was shot immediately upon entering the store.

Community members say rumors abound that a get-away car contained more suspects.

"There is a possibility that, as the investigation progresses, further charges may be forthcoming," Police Chief Tim Dolan said.

Community activist Omar Jamal said he met with the first suspect's mother Sunday morning.

"She was very confused, very concerned and very disheartened about the whole situation," he said.

The killings shocked the city, which continues to reel from a spate of violence: Johnson, 31, of Champlin, was fatally shot Jan. 2; Walter Lee Dolley Jr., 19, was found shot to death late Friday just four blocks from his south Minneapolis home, and a 19-month-old girl being carried off a city bus by her mother at Olson Memorial Highway and Humboldt Avenue N. was shot Saturday morning.

The toddler is expected to fully recover, said Capt. Amelia Huffman, head of the criminal investigation division. Police are pursuing good leads in Dolley's death, she said, and a 32-year-old man was arrested in Johnson's death.

"We've had a bad week, but it's on top of a couple of very good years," said police spokesman Sgt. William Palmer. "We are hopeful that this is not a trend."

Anger over the violence was apparent at a vigil for Johnson in north Minneapolis. He was killed after dropping off his son at a sleep-over, family friends said.

"Five murders in eight days is crazy,'' Ferome Brown told the roughly 30 people gathered at the frigid outdoor vigil. "It's a whole different day. We've got to drop everything we're doing and give it all that we can.''

K.G. Wilson, of Hope Ministries, said 2010 was off to a "terrifying'' start.

"The question is, 'What are we going to do different this year?'" asked an angry Wilson. "Is it the drugs? Is it the gangs? Is it that we're not paying enough attention to the people who live here?''

Johnson was killed in the 3800 block of N. 6th Street, where the vigil was held. He was a stay-at-home father of three children, ages 8, 7 and 1, said Sondra Samuels, president of the Peace Foundation, a group that combats violence on the city's North Side. He grew up in north Minneapolis and was a basketball star at Edison High school, she said. He also played basketball at the Minnesota State University, Mankato, said his second cousin Mearl Champion.

Champion said it's hard to keep track of all the deaths. "I lost my brother, my son and my cousin,'' said Champion. "It seems to go on and on.''

Emotions also ran high at the news conference Sunday, where Dolan said he didn't believe the killings were part of a "larger pattern of incidents." But some East African community members said that crime in the Seward area is an issue, and that disaffected youth are the main offenders.

"This is very sad news for the community," said Ahmed Ismail, who works in youth programming at the Somali American Parent Association in Minneapolis. Crime is "getting worse and worse."

Community activist Abdirizak Bihi said he spoke with several other Somali-owned businesses, and found that a handful had been robbed or burglarized in the last few weeks, including a computer store in the Cedar-Riverside area, an adult day care and a halal grocery store on Lake Street. Some victims didn't report the crimes for fear of retaliation, Bihi said.

It's unclear if the crimes are related, he said, but crimes committed by youths targeting their own community is a real issue.

"This youth has trauma; these families came from civil wars," he said.

Rybak acknowledged that the triple homicide is a wake-up call.

"This tragic incident also underscores that we still have some challenges," Rybak said.

Staff writer David Chanen contributed to this report.

cxiong@startribune.com • 612-673-4391 hopfen@startribune.com • 612-673-4511

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