One day after another St. Paul killing pushed the number of fatal shootings to eight in September alone, the spike in homicidal violence continued to reverberate from residential neighborhoods to City Hall.
More than a third of this year’s 22 homicides occurred this month. Unless the shootings stop, the city is on pace to exceed its worst year in the past decade — 24 homicides in 2017. Both tallies include fatal police shootings.
Three decades ago, the city had an alarming spike in violence with 34 homicides in 1992 followed by 29 in 1994.
“We are seeing gun violence erupt in a lot of places across town, and it’s having a really destabilizing effect,” said Council Member Jane Prince. She represents and lives in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood, where the latest shooting occurred, calling it “a great multicultural, diverse community.”
Gunfire erupted Tuesday night near the intersection of N. Mendota Street and E. Fremont Avenue, kitty-corner from a small convenience store. Officers responded about 7:30 p.m. and found a man on the sidewalk with a gunshot wound to the chest. The victim, identified by his sister as Terry L. Edwards, died at the scene.
Edwards, 36, moved to St. Paul from Chicago about 10 years ago, after his grandmother died, said his sister, Sari Edwards. According to Minnesota court and corrections records, he was released from St. Cloud prison on Aug. 19. He had been sentenced to 21 months for a felony assault conviction and served about a year. He was still under court supervision at the time of his death.
An unknown assailant reportedly fired at Edwards while chasing him down the street, then turned and fled on foot in the opposite direction. No one has been arrested.
“Everybody’s trying to figure it out and get through this,” said Prince, who lives just blocks from the shooting.
Behind the police tape, fed-up neighbors shook their heads and decried the prevalence of guns in settling disputes.
A bystander livestreaming the aftermath as investigators scoured the crime scene for shell casings Tuesday evening said he heard the pops and walked over to find a woman performing CPR on Edwards until paramedics arrived. When he got closer, the man said he immediately recognized his friend — known to many by his nickname, Slugg.
Next-door neighbors, jolted by the noise, peered out their windows to find Edwards bleeding on the sidewalk. One lifelong Dayton’s Bluff resident, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisal, described Tuesday’s shooting as the final straw. She’s decided to move out of St. Paul.
“I really do love the East Side, but it’s not a safe environment to raise my children any longer,” she said. “This time, it hit too close to home.”
Chelsea and Christopher Slinde were walking half a block down on Mendota Street on Wednesday when they stopped to chat with a neighbor sitting on her stoop watching over her dog in the grass.
The neighbor has been in the area — lined with large, wooden, older single-family homes in various states of upkeep — more than four decades. A few houses on nearby blocks have green-and-white lawn signs that read “East Side Pride.”
The Slindes, who bought a house around the corner last year, are already accustomed to tuning in the police scanner.
“If you’re hearing shots, you want to know what’s going on in the neighborhood,” Chelsea Slinde said.
On Tuesday night, she heard the shots, saw police in the streets and skipped her usual evening walk with the couple’s two dogs.
The next morning, she picked up a shell casing one dog found on the sidewalk, sealed in plastic wrap.
As a police SUV rolled past later, Christopher Slinde ran after him to tell him about the casing.
The shootings have hit hard at a time City Hall is debating whether to decrease the number of officers on the streets. Mayor Melvin Carter’s proposed 2020 budget would reduce the number of sworn police officers from 635 to 630. The department now has 608 officers on its payroll, 570 of whom are available to work.
The Slindes weren’t sure a stronger police presence is the issue. “It’s great to clean up blood, but they should have more interventions beforehand,” Chelsea Slinde said.
There was no blood visible on the street Wednesday, nor were there any makeshift memorials or passersby paying tribute to the victim. The shooting came hours after the city was roiled by the aftermath of another fatal incident. Earlier in the day, police released body camera footage from officer Steven Mattson, who fatally shot Ronald K. Davis on Sept. 15.
On Wednesday, Carter issued a statement about the latest shooting, saying, “The violence we have endured over the past few weeks is heartbreaking and unacceptable. Ending these cycles — and dismantling the root causes behind them — is our highest priority.”
Prince agreed about tackling root causes but brought up the mayor’s plan to cut the number of police officers.
“This [shooting] reinforces my belief that now is not the time to be talking about cuts to the police department,” she said.
Prince said she plans to attend an anti-gun violence forum at 6 p.m. Thursday at Arlington Hills Lutheran Church. The event is sponsored partly by the St. Paul NAACP and is billed as a “discussion for the healing of our community.”
The outbreak of violence has surprised most residents.
“I’m no expert, but I don’t think anybody saw this coming,” Prince said. But amid the difficult time, she said she’s getting a hopeful message: “Everyone wants to help.”