While writing a lot about gun violence, I had yet to witness gunfire outside the shooting range.
Until last Friday.
I was driving west on Dowling Ave. N. after work when I heard a gunshot and saw people ducking in the bus shelter in front of the convenience store at Fremont Ave. N., not more than a couple dozen feet to my right.
Was that really a shooting? It was just after 6:30 p.m., and still light outside. There were lots of people around – walking on the sidewalks, driving through the intersection, shopping at the store.
I hadn’t seen much in all the commotion, but circled the block and confirmed with a bystander that it was, indeed, a shooting. Three police cars showed up in minutes. Witnesses told the officers that a group of teenage boys had crowded outside, but couldn’t be sure who had the gun; they all scattered.
The number of nonfatal shootings in Minneapolis is on pace to top last year, and the North Side has already seen its share in recent months: a drive-by on Saturday injured three men, and three women were shot at a backyard gathering last month. One man was shot to death in a dispute that began on a public bus.
The shooting I drove by is not the sort that would ordinarily make the news, but it offers a glimpse into the kind of crime that can drag down an area and make people feel unsafe running everyday errands.
One woman told a police officer that she pulled in front of the store and waited in her car for a while after seeing a large gathering of young men hanging around in front.
“I was just about to get out of my car and I heard bam bam bam and I ducked,” she said. “My ears starting ringing; it was right behind me.”
"Broad daylight," grumbled another woman.
Inside, one cashier hit the floor when he heard the noise, but minutes later, continued work as usual.
A copy of the police report obtained today indicated that someone had been hit, contrary to what police and bystanders initially assumed. I called up the listed victim, Deveon Marquise Branch, 20.
Branch said he saw men he didn’t know making gestures at him as he walked into the store for a Black and Mild cigar and they walked out, but ignored it.
He heard shots ring out as he headed toward his car, and jumped in and drove home a few blocks away, before authorities arrived. Branch took off his shoe and saw a bullet had scraped the top of his right foot, by his pinky toe – an injury that doctors later said would heal soon.
“It was just unfortunate,” Branch said, adding that he already had plans to move off the North Side.
Branch said he rarely heard gunshots around that corner, and neither had I, after driving by several times a month for nearly two years.
The police report was sparse, noting, “FURTHER INVESTIGATION REQUIRED.”
No arrests have been made.