Robert Lenzy Freeman King was just taking a quick break from preparing to work security at a friend's concert performance when he made a run to the nearby Boys and Girls Club on Friday afternoon.
"I'll be right back," he told Teresa Leanna, his girlfriend of 10 years and the mother of three of his children, as he left their Minneapolis home. "I promise."
"He walked out the door, and 15 minutes later, my niece called and said he was shot," Leanna tearfully recalled Sunday afternoon. "I ran out the door -- and I ran."
She ran 12 blocks to the Jerry Gamble Boys and Girls Club, which King, 52, frequently visited with his nieces and nephews. She ran up to a friend of his who worked there.
"He's shot!" she said.
"No, baby," the friend said. "He's dead."
King was shot after a fight broke out between two groups of young men. Shots were fired, and King was hit. He died on the sidewalk in front of the club at 2410 Irving Av. N.
Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia said Sunday that it remains unclear whether King was involved in the altercation, a bystander or trying to break up the fight. Leanna and King's brother, Alonzo Bell, 40, said Sunday that they believe he was trying to break up a fight.
A juvenile male was shot in the torso and hospitalized. He suffered non-life-threatening injuries. No one has been arrested and a motive remains unknown, Garcia said.
'It can't be my brother'
As Leanna sobbed at the scene, darkness gathered and snow fell. Bell arrived after receiving a phone call about the shooting.
On Sunday, he recalled thinking, It can't be my brother. He walked up to the man's body. "When I looked down at his face, it hit me," Bell said.
Police ushered onlookers away from the crime scene, wrapping yellow police tape around a swing set at the park across the street and expanding their perimeter. Leanna said Sunday that she was distressed that authorities left King's body uncovered, a common police practice meant to preserve evidence. Bell said he objected and was promptly placed in the back of a squad car.
In her rush, Leanna had left the couple's three children, ages 7, 9 and 13, home alone. Shortly after 5 p.m., they called her. They hadn't known what had happened until the evening news, broadcast live from the crime scene, showed their father's body on the ground and their mother crying in the background.
"They were crying and upset and asking, was their daddy really dead," Leanna said as she buried her face in her hands.
The Hennepin County medical examiner's report said the bullet that killed King entered through the right side of his back, penetrated his lung, hit a main artery, grazed his heart and exited out of his chest, Leanna said.
Police still investigating
Their three children and other relatives remembered King as an outgoing man who loved to play sports with his nieces and nephews at the Boys and Girls Club and watch them participate in sports.
Leanna and Bell said that although no one has told them they saw King intervening in a fight, they believe he was doing so.
"He's just that type of person," Bell said.
"He always tried to solve everything," Leanna said.
Police declined to speculate, saying they don't yet know what happened.
King was a big believer in helping youth overcome their obstacles, family members said. He made it a point to stay active in the lives of young relatives, and had raised Leanna's daughter from a previous relationship as his own. He walked his 9- and 7-year-old sons to school.
Son Jayquann, 9, laughed as he recalled getting into food fights with his dad. Robert, 7, said his dad always took him to wrestling practice.
All told, King has eight children -- some grown -- and five grandchildren, Leanna said. He grew up in Chicago and moved to Minneapolis in 2000, and had worked at various jobs, including as a private contractor in home remodeling.
In his spare time, he enjoyed hanging out with friends from a motorcycle club and taking trips with Leanna to sister bike clubs as far away as Mississippi, she said.
"We always had fun," she said. "Traveling, playing around. He was a warm-hearted person."
Chao Xiong • 612-673-4391