A woman was fatally stabbed at a bus depot near the Hennepin Avenue theater district in downtown Minneapolis, prompting a renewed call for an increased police presence in the area.
The victim was killed near Hawthorne Avenue and 10th Street about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, when many visitors were a nearby for stage productions, leaving the Minnesota Lynx basketball game at Target Center a couple of blocks away or lingering after the Minnesota Twins game at nearby Target Field.
Authorities identified the victim as Mesheka Willis, 42. She died of a stab wound to the chest, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Willis had recently graduated from a sober living program and was working as a hairstylist, said her cousin Valencia Jenkins. She had one adult son.
“We are all extremely devastated,” Jenkins wrote in a Facebook message to the Star Tribune. “We are proud of all her accomplishments and are upset that she didn’t get to enjoy them long.”
On Sunday, police arrested a 39-year-old woman in connection with the stabbing. She was booked into the Hennepin County jail on probable cause murder.
Police spokeswoman Darcy Horn said Sunday that the stabbing occurred “after an argument with acquaintances she was with. This was not a stranger situation.”
Panhandling, street harassment and drunken fights have led the city to increase patrols by police officers and ambassadors from the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District.
However, one member of the Hennepin Avenue Safety Committee said the city still has too few officers assigned downtown during especially busy evenings.
“On any given Friday night, all we have is approximately 17 police officers to patrol all of downtown,” said Joe Tamburino, who also chairs the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association.
At the district’s most recent meeting two weeks ago, he said, police reported a sharp jump in reported crimes.
“I predicted this over a year ago, that crime would increase because our City Council [is] not in support of increasing downtown patrols and increasing the number of police officers,” he said. “This summer will definitely bring more crime and more homicides. This is totally on the City Council‘s head. And the mayor needs to be out in front of increasing our force, too.”
A four-year construction project began in the area in mid-April, diverting buses, choking traffic and disrupting businesses from S. 12th Street to Washington Avenue in what is downtown’s largest project of its kind since Nicollet Mall underwent its renovation.
Mark Nerenhausen, president of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, said he hopes the makeover’s enhanced lighting and other features will make the area more “safe, vibrant and attractive.”
Anyone with information about this case is urged to contact Crime Stoppers of Minnesota or leave a tip at CrimeStoppersMN.org.