For the past eight to 10 years, his family has marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Minneapolis, a city he loves and also promotes as one of the board members of the Minneapolis Downtown Council. This year, the holiday was spent with a large group of relatives ranging in age from 8 to 88.
“It was a fantastic event,” said the board member.
Until it wasn’t.
The family had just rolled up its banner when a group of teenagers swerved to pass on Marquette Avenue. The board member’s brother-in-law was a few steps ahead, walking with his young son. As one of the teens passed, he viciously punched the brother-in-law in the face, knocking him into a wall.
“There was a melee going on,” said the board member, who spoke on the condition that his family’s name be withheld. They are all, including children, witnesses to the attack and afraid of retaliation. “We found ourselves surrounded by kids. It was such a blur, I couldn’t tell if there were 25 or 75 kids.”
The man’s teenage son broke through the crowd and found police officers, who rushed to the scene. By then, even more kids had been drawn by the chaos, and police had to surround the family with their bicycles. Officers eventually brought the family members inside a building and blocked the doors with their bikes.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the board member, a downtown business owner who told his story to the rest of the organization Monday. “It was just so heinous.”
Despite police presence, dozens of kids hovered nearby. The attacker ran off and got away. Police had to surround the victim and his family and walk them to the end of the block to an ambulance, surrounding them with their bikes. The victim, 52, was taken to HCMC for treatment. He suffered a broken maxilla bone and a traumatic brain injury and will miss at least three weeks of work. The victim’s brother was also assaulted, according to the police report.
In an unusual move, the Downtown Council said it would offer a $5,000 reward through Crime Stoppers, with details to be worked out later Tuesday.
“This was a particularly senseless, reckless and illegal action,” said MDC Chair Tom Hoch. “The victim had enjoyed participating in the parade with his family and was plainly and simply sucker-punched without provocation” and near many law officers. “Shockingly, these deterrents did not prevent this irresponsible act, and the responsible individual must be identified and held accountable.”
According to MDC President and CEO Steve Cramer, the council hopes the reward will draw out witnesses. “As a community, we must agree to define such behavior as clearly outside the bounds of what is acceptable,” Cramer said. “We simply will not tolerate this activity, nor will we cede our streets to such brazen acts.”
“Police did a fantastic job, ” said the board member. “They showed so much restraint. It was impressive.”
The board member said hospital staffers told his family that there were many victims of assaults that night. Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder, however, said there were two reports of assaults and a stabbing during and after the parade. Hundreds of teens were roaming downtown that evening, but there wasn’t as much violence as the previous St. Patrick’s Day. Teens blocked traffic and got into fights; criminal complaints are being pursued in a handful of cases this year.
After the attack, the board member spoke with Cramer and called Metro Transit officials to see if the teens were using the free ride program on St. Patrick’s Day to get downtown. Because of social media posts, Metro Transit officials were aware that teens were planning to flood downtown, and they warned those trying to disturb the parade to stay away, according to spokesman Howie Padilla.
The board member, however, said he wished city officials had warned the public that they could be in jeopardy. “Why wasn’t the public made more aware?” he said.
“I’ve always been a big supporter of downtown,” he added. “It’s important that we have a safe and vibrant downtown. This makes me look at downtown through a different lens, that’s for sure. I don’t know what the answer is. If someone really wants to come down and cause trouble, you can’t stop them. If we had known there was a chance of this mayhem, we wouldn’t have marched.”