A 2-month-old boy, struck by a stray bullet and critically injured Thursday night, is the latest in a string of incidents involving north Minneapolis children caught in crossfire.

Cyndi Barrington, Minneapolis police spokeswoman, said preliminary information indicates the baby was struck about 9 p.m. while being held by his father outside a home in the 2400 block of Emerson Av. N. The father told police he heard a loud bang, looked down and saw his baby had been hit, Barrington said.

The baby was listed in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center early Friday.

Police were canvassing the neighborhood in search of witnesses, information and the shooter. "A motive is unknown," Barrington said.

Children being shot "should not be happening," she said. "From the police perspective, we have cops out here working 24/7 and they won't stop. But this absolutely unacceptable and the community should be outraged."

Thursday's shooting comes on the heels of two separate shootings this summer that wounded two other children. Two weeks ago, a 14-month-old girl, a pregnant 19-year-old woman and a 17-year-old boy were shot when a man approached a group of people as they stood outside a parked car, fired repeatedly and then ran. And in June, a 4-year-old boy was shot along with two adults as they sat in a car.

Those shootings sparked anger, protests and vigils in pleas to stop the violence in a community that reeled over the death of 5-year-old Nizzel George, who was shot in the back as he slept on his grandmother's couch in June 2012. Six months earlier, 3-year-old Terrell Mayes Jr. was shot and killed on the day after Christmas by a stray bullet that ripped through his family's home.

"This is a gun problem," said Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels, who stood on the street in north Minneapolis as police worked to find the shooter. "There is no city in America where enough police officers have been hired and social programs have been established where 2-year-olds don't get killed."

Samuels is a staunch advocate for stricter gun laws and faults lawmakers for not stepping up to do that. "There's a gun problem here. This was a gun, a bullet, a missile that was shot from a safe distance for the perpetrator and into the neck of a child, with no warning and no defense possible. It's a gun problem. … Legislators should be standing out here tonight."

Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788