Julie McAlester knew that her 16-year-old son had started to hang out with the wrong crowd and she pleaded with a probation officer to put him in jail to keep him safe.
But early Sunday morning, her worst fears were realized when her son, Sabrae, became the lone fatality in an unusually dangerous holiday weekend in Minneapolis.
In a few hours, at least 10 people were shot, making for one of the most dangerous overnight periods in recent city history.
The string of shootings has renewed concerns about violent crime in Minneapolis, especially in the busy downtown area.
Sabrae’s death was the 23rd homicide this year in the city, the fifth in downtown’s First Precinct. Last year, there was one homicide in that district through the same period and none the year before.
“I don’t know how I’m going to start my life without my son. … They took something that was really precious from us,” McAlester, 39, said in an interview Wednesday.
A little after 2 a.m. Sunday, officers on foot patrol near North 4th Street and Hennepin Avenue heard gunshots and saw a crowd of people running from the area. Police found two men with gunshot wounds.
Both were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center. The other victim, a 24-year-old man, said in an interview that he was walking out of a nightclub when he was shot in the leg. Sabrae received a fatal shot to the head. Doctors were able to harvest and donate his organs, which potentially saved six lives, his mother said.
Police have not said what led to the shooting, whether Sabrae had a weapon or given any other details, saying that the investigation is ongoing.
Sabrae was staying with his father over the holiday weekend, McAlester said. After his father went to sleep, the teenager apparently sneaked out of the home to spend time with friends downtown, she said.
She heard from multiple people who were with her son that a rival clique or gang had an issue with Sabrae’s group that resulted in some kind of earlier altercation. His injuries suggested that he was shot at close range, McAlester said.
Authorities have yet to arrest anyone connected to the incident but have said the shooting was not random and have asked witnesses to share what they know. McAlester hopes people will come forward and help with the investigation.
Crime ‘doesn’t end well’
McAlester said her son had a run-in with authorities a couple of years ago after being caught shooting BB guns with friends. She had a sense the violence and the trouble was escalating, so she pleaded with authorities to take her son to jail and keep him off the streets.
“I felt this coming the last couple months,” she said. “I begged him to stop hanging with these people.”
Sabrae was a rising junior at the West Education Center Alternative in Minnetonka. He loved being around his family and playing basketball and he dreamed of one day playing in the NBA, his mother said.
McAlester said she and her family have endured bouts of homelessness until recently moving to a new place in St. Louis Park. She warned other young people to avoid turning to violence and crime.
“I would definitely tell them that it doesn’t end well and that the family suffers a lot. … It’s not worth it; they either end up in jail or killed,” she said.
A ‘challenging weekend’
The area where the shooting happened is one of the Minneapolis Police Department’s “focused zones,” in which they direct more patrols to help combat crime during the summer, said police spokesman Scott Seroka.
Police have flooded the area with additional officers, reserve officers, Hennepin County sheriff’s deputies, as well as school resource officers, Seroka said.
“This was a challenging weekend for downtown; there’s no doubt about that,” said Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council and Downtown Improvement District.
Cramer said he had faith in partnerships with groups trying to find a solution, such as Minneapolis police.
Downtown partners are discussing specific actions in response to this past weekend, but Cramer could not share much detail Wednesday. He said there are talks of bringing in experts to help analyze how the city is handling the bar closing period, when many of the shootings take place.
Community activist K.G. Wilson said that young people need to understand that they should not be out past curfew downtown, which is midnight on weekends for 16-year-olds.
“This goes from one stabbing, one shooting … one funeral to the next and these are children,” said Wilson, who is talking to Sabrae’s family.
Anyone with information about any of these shootings is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or send an anonymous tip to CRIMES (274637) and begin the message with: TIP 674 or call the Minneapolis police tip line at 612-692-TIPS (8477).