When Trevante Byrd was growing up, his mother's house on the South Side of Minneapolis was a favorite hangout for neighborhood kids.
During the week, they would come over after school to practice flips on the trampoline in the backyard. And whenever the weather forced them inside, they would swarm through the house, laughing and chasing each other around with Nerf guns.
Even after he grew up and moved out, Byrd always made sure that the area youngsters had someplace to go to, say friends and family.
All that changed last week, when Byrd, 23, was fatally shot outside his childhood home in the 2200 block of S. 13th Street. It was the latest in a recent spate of gunfire incidents in the Ventura Village neighborhood and surrounding areas.
Byrd had recently moved back in with his mother, and set up a makeshift recording studio in her basement.
He opened it up to other area aspiring rappers. Some credited Byrd with helping them find their voices and styles, said his sister, Phoenix.
"He would help them how to learn music, he helped them compose it, he would help them mix and master and stuff so they wouldn't have to pay for it," Phoenix Byrd said. "He showed his true self — what he wanted, what he wanted for other people, he just wanted it to be known."
On the night of April 9, police say Byrd was sitting in a car parked outside of the two-story, wood-frame townhouse where he grew up when a gunman walked up and opened fire, hitting Byrd several times. Someone drove him downtown to HCMC, where he later died of his injuries, authorities said.
The area where the shooting happened has seen a spike in gun violence in recent weeks, even though police say that in only a few of the cases was someone injured. Police Department statistics show that in the surrounding Third Precinct there were 60 gunfire incidents (including shootings, ShotSpotter activations and shots fired calls) in the two-week period ending April 8, compared with 38 such incidents in the same span last year.
Byrd's slaying also continued a trend of gunshot victims sitting or riding in a vehicle when they were struck.
In another such case, a man was shot last month apparently while conducting a drug deal from inside of a car in the area of N. 8th and Sheridan avenues, according to recent court filings. Both he and the driver of the vehicle gave conflicting stories about where the shooting happened, the filings said.
Byrd's siblings say that gunfire was commonplace on their block growing up.
But while some of his friends succumbed to the allure of street life, Phoenix Byrd said that her brother was more interested in helping out those who grew up in the same neighborhood, where opportunities for advancement were harder to come by. He did so, she said, by introducing others to music as "an outlet to channel that energy and a way to deal with the pain and everything that comes from growing up in our neighborhood."
Police believe that Byrd was the intended target of the shooting, saying that so far they haven't ruled out drugs, a neighborhood feud or other motive.
Department spokesman John Elder said Monday that he had no further details about the shooting.
"I just know that it's a very active investigation," he said. "Investigators were in over the weekend working on it as well."
No arrests had been announced as of Tuesday morning.
Byrd's friends and relatives said it's easy for outsiders to automatically brand a young black man who came from where he came from as a troublemaker. He wasn't that, they say.
"I just know that there's people wanting to portray him as a bad guy, as being in gangs or something like that, but he just wasn't," said friend Tyesha Cooper.
Cooper said he hadn't changed much since they were kids, when they would spend countless afternoons in his mother's basement or at the former Boys & Girls Club next door, or playing basketball at nearby Phillips Park. He was still the same anime-crazed "Vante," she said: always a smile on his face, always looking out for others.
"We heard plenty of shootings and stuff like that growing up, but he was just never someone that you expected to be in this type of situation," she said of Byrd, the youngest of two brothers and three sisters. "He didn't deserve to go the way he went."
Christopher Byrd said his younger brother had been rapping since he was about 15, adopting the stage name "Teddy Gram Muncho." It was a mashup of his childhood nickname of "Teddy" and his favorite snack mix, Munchies, his brother said.
He loved to take pictures, and tinkered with engines in auto shop class at Roosevelt High School. But mostly he wanted to give back to those who grew up like him, his brother said.
"He wanted to make it out of his neighborhood," Christopher Byrd said.