The 50 or so kids and a handful of parents paid little mind to the fireworks booming across north Minneapolis during football practice one evening last week at Jordan Park.
But as a car slowly turned the corner, blasts of gunfire reverberated across the field. Bullets pinged off the posts above children ages 5 to 14 who took cover while their coaches shielded them with their bodies. A woman prayed and cried.
"I could hear the bullets whizzing over my head," a shaken but steeled Carrie Heinrich said in a Facebook video that went live barely two hours later, which has been viewed more than 1.5 million times since the incident.
"The worst feeling as a parent," Heinrich said, "was seeing my kid out in the middle of an open field with bullets flying and not being able to get to him."
In an especially violent day amid skyrocketing gun violence since George Floyd's May 25 death at the hands of Minneapolis police, nine people were shot across the city on June 22. Another two were stabbed, and one of them didn't survive.
The park shooting prompted Police Chief Medaria Arradondo to pledge Wednesday that "our children must be protected, and those who would dare to bring harm their way must be held accountable."
The shooting could have been much worse. Gunfire sprayed from one moving vehicle to another over the heads of youngsters, coaches and parents during practice that day. The adults swooped up the kids, hustled them into vehicles and spared the innocent from being wounded or worse.
From there, multiple vehicles took everyone to coach Melvin Thompson's home a few minutes' drive away.
"Once we got back to my house," Thompson said Tuesday, "we lined them all up and made them take their shirts off" to see whether anyone was shot.
Thompson returned to Jordan Park, collected bullets from the grass and looked ahead to his Minnesota Jays practice moving 3½ miles south Wednesday night to Bryn Mawr Meadows Park, "a nice, secluded area," he said.
Arradondo watched Heinrich's 9-minute video Wednesday afternoon and acknowledged the bravery and compassion of the coaches and parents who risked their own lives to shield and protect the children. "Everyone who was out there that day may have been traumatized by what occurred, and my thoughts are with them," he said.
More than a week after surviving the terror, Heinrich said that Cal, the 12-year-old son she always knew as a "goofy, outgoing, happy old soul [has since] been on edge, short-tempered and has cried. … He said, 'I just want to give up.' "
The shootings elsewhere in the city that day, along with the Jordan Park rolling gun battle on either side of the football players, came in the midst of a troubling surge in shootings in Minneapolis since Memorial Day. Less than two days before, 11 people were injured in a hail of gunfire in Uptown, while another man was shot and killed downtown at roughly the same time.
The violence has showed no signs of letting up since bullets flew over Jordan Park, at N. 30th and James avenues. From June 23 to 29, 18 people were hit by gunfire, with nine of them being hit over this past weekend, police said.
Halfway through 2020, 207 people have been shot in Minneapolis, a significantly higher tally than the five-year average for the same time span, according to police data. The six-month homicide total stands at 27.
Police spokesman John Elder said that when officers responded to Jordan Park, the shooters were gone. No arrests have been made in any of the shootings or stabbings that day.
On Wednesday, protecting the kids at practice at Bryn Mawr focused more on fending off mosquitoes, staying hydrated and getting loose.
"Start getting strapped up," Thompson said in his best head coach's voice to his Minnesota Jays. One player called home: "Coach says I need a mouth guard."
Thompson wove among players in line military style for calisthenics, correcting their form while mixing in fist bumps of encouragement.
A mom made the rounds with bug repellent, spraying down many of the boys on the steamy and sunny field.
'We need the cops'
In her post-shooting video, Heinrich broke the promise she made to herself to not "get political" and spoke up for keeping a strong law enforcement presence in the city, amid renewed scrutiny of the Police Department and efforts to dismantle it following the death of an unarmed and handcuffed Floyd while being pinned by officers to the pavement.
"We need the cops," said Heinrich, an emergency room nurse and former paramedic. "If you want to troll on [social media] and say dismantle the police, get off my page. … I have no respect for anyone who has never gone through this and then wants to go spit in a cop's face. That's who we needed tonight."
Backing Heinrich's point on reforming the role of police in the city, Arradondo said, "In our city, the police play an important role in responding to violent crime. There is still a need for us to protect and serve our communities, and we will continue to do that in a manner that preserves the public's trust."
Police debate aside, Heinrich didn't lose sight of who ultimately was responsible.
"Never again should these kids have to duck and dodge bullets while playing football," Heinrich said in the video's closing moments, her language punctuating rising anger. "What the hell is wrong with you people? Zero regard for life."
The program is a nonprofit that travels out of state for games and is seeking donations to cover their expenses.