St. Paul community leaders and city officials gathered Friday at the scene of a recent homicide to plead for the public’s help in curbing gun violence in the city.
The move came as St. Paul experienced a 75 percent increase in the number of shots-fired calls — 357 so far this year compared with 204 calls this time last year. Atop that, said police Chief Todd Axtell, 54 people have been shot in the city since the start of the year, averaging about one gunshot victim every other day.
“This is absolutely preventable,” said the chief.
Axtell spoke at the corner of Fuller Avenue and St. Albans Street N. where Rondell Quantrell Dunn, 25, was fatally shot Monday afternoon, and where a candlelight vigil in his memory later that night was fired upon by an unknown assailant. He was joined by Mayor Chris Coleman, Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington, St. Paul NAACP President Diane Binns, community activists Tyrone Terrill, the Rev. Charles Gill and several others.
Dunn’s homicide remains unsolved. The April 15 fatal shooting of Tyrese Santell Borney, 36, also remains unsolved. Police do not believe they are connected to each other, or to a nonfatal shooting Tuesday at Indian Mounds Regional Park.
Nine people have died in homicides so far this year in St. Paul, seven of them by gunfire, according to the police department.
City officials and community leaders asked for a coordinated effort across all agencies and the public to address the issue, and to remove guns from the hands of youth.
“As community members, we also need to step up and take responsibility,” said Coleman. “Put down the guns, walk away from violence.”
Terrill, president of the African American Leadership Council, appealed directly to black community members, saying “our village is under attack by our young people.” He and Binns called on parents to inspect their children’s rooms and to mentor and parent youths who don’t have parental role models.
“Nobody is born with a gun in their hand,” Terrill said. “Adopt your own block.”
Binns said the NAACP would begin hosting monthly barbecues starting in June to reach out to the community, and will also begin offering more programming. Next month, she said, the NAACP will host a workshop to teach people how to de-escalate situations with family members or friends with mental illness.
Axtell said police are taking an “all hands on deck” approach to addressing gun violence. The department added one sergeant and five officers to its gang and gun unit.
The department started holding daily meetings this week to talk about gun violence. Police spokesman Steve Linders said squad and foot patrols have also been stepped up in some areas and that $100,000 from a federal grant is being allocated to address gun violence.
Officers respond to an average of three shots fired calls each day, and 144 guns have been recovered so far this year, according to the department.
The plea for public intervention came on the same day Isaiah C. Bracy, 18, was charged with starting a gunfight on the Dale Street light-rail platform Monday that led to a man being shot in the back.
Bracy was charged in Ramsey County District Court with two counts of second-degree assault. According to the complaint: Surveillance video captured footage of several males fighting on the platform. Bracy was captured firing a gun two times at two different men.
One of the men turned around and fired in return, apparently striking a 38-year-old male bystander in the back at 4:39 p.m. — about two hours after Dunn was killed just a few blocks away.
One witness told police she saw men on the platform throwing up gang signs as the train passed them. She then heard yelling inside the train and gunshots were fired.
Bracy declined to comment after he was arrested April 19. The other shooter has not been charged.