A day after the second of two fatal shootings on Minneapolis' North Side, crime-weary residents again called on city and police leaders to offer solutions to the steady drumbeat of gunfire on their blocks.
For some, the response was less than reassuring.
Lisa Clemons, a North Sider and former city police officer, said that she was struck by what she felt was indifference toward the shooting death of 16-year-old Quay Felton on Friday afternoon, in a part of town where the majority of gunshot victims, like the teenager, are black. And with the city seeing nearly a quarter more gunshot victims so far this year, compared to the same time last year, she said the need for a coordinated response to the crime problem was greater than ever.
"I think it's just white noise to them now," said Clemons, whose group, A Mother's Love, regularly responds to crime scenes to diffuse tense situations that may arise after a homicide or shooting.
Officials on Monday tried to assure residents that the department is doing everything it can. After the two most recent homicides, police patrols were stepped up in surrounding neighborhoods, while officers from specialized units like the Gang Interdiction Team and the Weapons Unit were deployed to areas where the potential for revenge shootings was high.
"We have team coordinated enforcement activities based on intelligence reports including weekly strategies that are sent out to supervisors, and current intelligence on potential suspects and victims," spokeswoman Sgt. Darcy Horn said in a statement, adding that police are working with various neighborhood groups. She otherwise declined to make department officials available for comment.
The recent bloodshed came amid a fierce political debate about how many police officers Minneapolis needs.
In a budget presentation last week, police Chief Medaria Arradondo said that low staffing was making it difficult to adequately patrol certain parts of the city. He told reporters that he worried that without a significant increase in manpower — amounting to 400 more beat cops by the year 2025 — he wouldn't be able to continue his work of changing the department's culture.
Meanwhile, the number of gunshot victims is up about 22% over last year, while homicides are roughly even, according to the most recent crime statistics available.
Serious assaults, which include shootings and stabbings, are up about 13% — there were 1,197 such incidents through July 8 this year, the most recent date for which reliable data were available, compared with 1,059 over the same span in 2018. Violent crime is up 7% year-over-year.
Department statistics also show that the ShotSpotter system, which uses sound waves to pinpoint where and how many times a gun has been fired, has averaged 33 shooting incidents per week over the first six months or so of this year — a number skewed by the fact that the technology doesn't cover the entire city and occasionally confuses fireworks for gunshots.
The city's most recent homicide came early Sunday, when 37-year-old Gregory Hoskins was gunned down outside an apartment complex in the 1500 block of N. Plymouth Avenue — nearly two years to the date and about a block away from where his brother, Divittin, was fatally shot. Officers found Gregory Hoskins outside the complex, in the Near North Side neighborhood, with an apparent gunshot wound to the back, after the area's ShotSpotter detected 10 gunshots sometime after midnight, according to police radio transmissions. He died at North Memorial Health Hospital.
No motive was immediately known, but police don't believe it was related to any other recent homicide or to his brother's slaying.
Police and community leaders also said they were concerned about the potential for violence around the one-year anniversary of the death of Nathan Hampton, who was gunned down in broad daylight near a crowded Willard-Hay neighborhood park as hundreds of people watched a community kickball game. His slaying sparked a cycle of retaliatory shootings between rival gang factions, police say.
Sunday's homicide was the second on the city's North Side since late Friday afternoon, when Felton was killed, apparently over a perceived slight. He died at a nearby hospital after being shot in the head near 30th and Colfax avenues just after 5:20 p.m.
The two recent homicides brought strong condemnations from City Hall.
"Our community is reeling and these shootings have been incredibly traumatic and the loss of life is heartbreaking," Mayor Jacob Frey said in an interview Monday. "What Minneapolis needs right now is not more talk, but clear solutions."
Frey said he shares the chief's desire for more cops, but didn't think that number suggested by Arradondo was realistic.
"My position on officers hasn't changed a lick: we need more officers," he said, before adding: "There are obviously budgetary factors that need to be accounted for, and based on those budgetary factors, we won't get to 400 officers — that won't happen."
Fifth Ward Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said Monday that the time for policy discussions would come later. For now, he said, he was focused on helping his community grieve.
"Anytime the city or the North Side experiences a homicide, it's gut-wrenchingly difficult, especially when you've got victims who are teenagers," Ellison said. "I am open to any strategy and any evidence of a strategy that people think might work."
Manu Lewis, a native North Sider, said that it's more difficult to get a handle on the violence nowadays because so often it's tied to interpersonal beefs — usually fueled by past wrongs and social media-fueled humiliations. The bigger problem, he said, is the lack of support for formerly incarcerated young men who return to their old neighborhoods, where handguns, poverty and social isolation are constants.
"You're putting them where it's ample amounts of guns, ample amounts of drugs, ample amounts of ex-felons — what's bound to happen?" he said.