Joshua Ezeka’s phone buzzed with word that a rival gang member was nearby, so he grabbed his gun and ran out of the house, authorities say.
With the vehicle in his sights, Ezeka crossed the street and began firing wildly.
Some of the shots hit their target. Others missed, striking 58-year-old Birdell Beeks, who was driving her teenage granddaughter to an appointment.
On Tuesday, authorities charged Ezeka, 20, with killing Beeks, whose death last May put a spotlight on gang violence that erupted in parts of the city.
Ezeka, who faces counts of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder, made a brief appearance in Hennepin County District court, authorities said. His arrest the previous day was announced at an emotional news conference at City Hall.
Beeks and her 16-year-old granddaughter were driving in the area of Penn and 21st avenues N. on May 26 when they got caught in the crossfire of a violent feud, police said. The granddaughter wasn’t hurt, but Beeks was struck several times and died later in a nearby hospital.
“If people don’t help us and police, we can’t do our job,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told reporters after the hearing, crediting the tireless efforts of Beeks’ family and the two police detectives assigned to the case.
“They just wouldn’t let go.” he said.
His office declined further comment on Tuesday afternoon.
Ezeka remained jailed Tuesday in lieu of $1.5 million bail.
A warrant was issued on Tuesday for the arrest of Freddy Lee Scott, 21, whose car Ezeka jumped into and fled the scene, prosecutors say. Scott is charged with aiding an offender after the fact, a felony.
Authorities think the shooting stemmed from a bloody gang war in parts of north Minneapolis between two loosely-organized gang alliances calling themselves the High-end and Low-End, their territory roughly divided by W Broadway. Police blamed gang members on both sides for several recent homicides and dozens of shootings.
Ezeka was at a relative’s house on May 26 when Scott contacted him, saying that a High-end gang member was driving in the area of 21st and Penn avenues N., according to a criminal complaint.
Ezeka, who has ties to the Low End-backed Skitz Squad gang, grabbed his gun and ran after the rival’s vehicle, firing multiple times from about 30 yards away, prosecutors said. He later told investigators that he intended to shoot the rival but instead missed and struck Beeks.
After the shooting, Ezeka jumped into a car with Scott and others and sped away.
Authorities said they were confident that Ezeka was the one who fired the fatal shots, their investigation is ongoing and more arrests could be coming. Search warrants obtained by detectives on the case were under seal to protect the identities of witnesses who feared retaliation, they said.
For months, the case languished. But after reinterviewing several witnesses, detectives made a breakthrough this week.
After Tuesday’s hearing, Sa’Lesha Beeks, Birdell’s daughter, and about dozen friends and relatives shared their relief with reporters.
For months, Sa’Lesha Beeks mounted a public crusade to find her mother’s killer. She and other family members handed out fliers, organized community events and posted on social media, hoping to appeal to the consciences of potential witnesses, about the case but were reluctant to speak up.
They also appeared in public service announcements to stop gun violence.
“I was never going to stop searching for who killed my mother,” Beeks said. “And I will never stop fighting for others in the community.”
Beeks called it sad that a 20-year-old could take the life of an innocent bystander and keep quiet for so long.
“He just doesn’t value life,” she said.
Staff writer Brandon Stahl contributed to this report.