On their way back from a basketball tournament in Las Vegas last August, Abdiwasa Farah and his teammates made a pit stop in Yellowstone National Park.
They laughed nervously as a buffalo grazed just feet from their van, and coach Jennifer Weber reminded the boys of her earlier warning to be alert.
She didn't think Farah would end up safer on the road trip than at home. Six months later, the 17-year-old was gone, a bystander fatally shot amid rising gang violence.
"Those are the things that I was telling them to be careful about," she said of the wild animals and the streets of Las Vegas. "Not going to a restaurant and to come out after you've eaten and then take a bullet for something that wasn't yours."
His March 1 slaying capped a violent night in Minneapolis that saw at least five others shot across the city, and prompted much soul-searching in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, an ethnically diverse area that is home to many of the city's Somali, Oromo and other East African immigrants. Officials promised to address the bloodshed, which police say was related to an ongoing feud between rival Somali gangs.
At a community meeting last week, First Precinct inspector Eddie Frizell said that he had ramped up police patrols in the area, and agreed to temporarily reassign the area's two Somali-American beat officers to a later shift to try to head off further violence. But he also drew criticism for telling the crowd that parents needed to be more involved in their children's lives, saying that the department didn't bear responsibility to "babysit your kids." He later apologized for the remark.
Police said that Farah was sitting with two men in a car parked in a lot at 1500 S. 4th St when someone opened fire on them. An autopsy revealed he was shot multiple times, while the two men suffered noncritical injuries.
No arrests had been announced as of Friday, but the head of the homicide unit said this week that the investigation was "proceeding in a good direction." Detectives are looking into the possibility that the homicide was in response to an earlier shooting at the Karmel Mall, where a 24-year-old man was wounded by gunfire only hours before.
Police and some community leaders were quick to lay blame for the bloodshed on a feud between Cedar-Riverside neighborhood gangs like 1627 and the Cedar Riverside Crips and their rivals, the Somali Outlaws, who claim the area around Karmel Mall.
Last month, a man was shot in the back across the street from the Cedar Cultural Center — possibly leaving him paralyzed — by a gunman "for not supporting rappers from the Somali Outlaws gang," court filings say. Police this week issued arrest warrants for Farhan Musse Ibrahim, 20, and Ahmed Rashed Ahmed, 26, both of whom are charged with second-degree assault.
Weber and others who knew Farah pushed back on the suggestion that his death was gang-related. The teen, they said, wasn't involved in the street life, but rather was an unintended victim caught in a hail of bullets meant for someone else.
His death reverberated beyond the neighborhood he called home, friends say, to Heritage Academy of Science & Technology, where he was a junior, and Edison High School in northeast Minneapolis, where he played basketball last season under an agreement between the two schools. Weber, the Cedar-Riverside coach, said that Farah's former AAU teammates planned to attend Edison's home playoff game on Saturday against Trinity to honor his memory, even as they struggled to come to terms with what happened.
Despite his wiry frame, he cracked the playing rotation during his sophomore year at Edison after spending the offseason fine-tuning his outside shooting, said Ahmil Jihad, the head varsity coach there.
On the Saturday after the shooting, Jihad said he gathered his team after practice to talk about Farah's death.
"I had to put it out there, and explain it to them, that this is a part of a life, that everybody is going to die someday," he said in a phone interview. "So it's better and beneficial to be a good person while you're down here on this Earth."
Mustafa Salad, a junior on the team, remembered Farah as the "sweet" and "humble" kid with whom he had spent countless childhood hours playing basketball on the outdoor courts at Anne Sullivan School and south Minneapolis' Brackett Park.
"He was always cracking the funniest jokes — he was always positive, optimistic," he said.
He loved an underdog story, said another Edison teammate, Ibrahim Mahamud.
"He really admired people that came from nothing and made it into something," said Mahamud, a junior. "He admired their stories and tried to emulate their workouts."
Jihad said Farah, one of 10 children, spent his summer working at Target Field, and had recently gotten a job at Walmart. But he decided against playing his junior year at Edison, saying that he needed to work more to help out his family, even though an online sports publication had named him one of the preseason players to watch in the conference, Jihad said.
Others who knew him worried that Farah might have fallen in with a bad crowd, but insisted that he himself never caused trouble. Ali Saleh remembered him for his selflessness, both on and off the court.
"If a kid was getting bullied or needed help from him, he would be the first one to step up — even outside basketball, with homework help or anything, he'd be the first one there," said Saleh, who served as the strength coach on Farah's AAU team.
Weber, the AAU coach, said that after his death, Farah's father had insisted on praying with the team and thanking them for their support of his son. For the kids, it was a bit like looking into the future, she said.
"The same sparkle in his eye, the sense of humor and stuff, you know it — you said, 'Yep, that was Wasa's dad,' " said Weber, her voice quivering. "His dad was a grown-up version of what he should've been someday."