After a night of deadly violence in Minneapolis, exasperated community members converged outside of a North Side liquor store and temporarily shut down a business they say is responsible for attracting a stream of dangerous people who are traumatizing the neighborhood.
"Find somewhere else to buy your liquor," Lisa Clemons instructed a would-be customer, the morning after her 24-year-old great-nephew was seriously injured during a drive-by shooting that littered the intersection with dozens of shell casings.
"They'll be no business conducted today," Clemons, founder of the outreach group A Mother's Love, said via livestream. "It's time for the city to do the right thing."
The demonstration came after a deadly five-hour stretch that saw three separate shootings late Thursday and early Friday, leaving two dead and seven hospitalized, some critically wounded. The shooting outside Merwin Liquors took place just hours after residents in a public meeting implored city officials to close the liquor store over other recent shootings.
The palpable frustration from residents in north Minneapolis coincides with the third consecutive summer of elevated violent crime disproportionately hitting underserved neighborhoods like this one, and as Mayor Jacob Frey seeks a permanent police chief who will be immediately tasked with curbing the street violence while regaining public trust. Earlier this week, Frey confirmed the city has identified three finalists for the job, and the list does not include Interim Chief Amelia Huffman, who had sought the position.
The series of shootings began at 8:15 p.m. Thursday, when police responded to reports of gunfire near the corner of Knox and Plymouth avenues — just down the street from the Fourth Precinct police headquarters — and discovered a 16-year-old who'd been shot, said department spokesman Garrett Parten. The officers attempted lifesaving measures, but the boy died later at HCMC. No suspects have been arrested.
Less than an hour later, police said, a drive-by shooting occurred near Merwin on W. Broadway and N. Lyndale Avenue, a troubled corner of the North Side's commercial district that is also home to Winner Gas, dubbed the "murder station" by locals because of its reputation for attracting violence.
Police say they found a man and woman who'd been shot there shortly after 9 p.m. Two other victims with serious injuries sustained during the same shootout showed up to Twin Cities hospitals later, Parten said.
"How many people have to die on that corner — between those two businesses — before there's a change?" said DonEsther Anderson, chief operating officer for A Mother's Love. "It is destroying the fabric of this community."
The shooting hit particularly close to home for Anderson's organization, as one victim is the only child of a colleague. A bullet pierced the young man's abdomen, ripping through his stomach. By the time her team reached North Memorial Health in Robbinsdale, he had already been rushed into surgery. He remains in critical condition.
"He's a good kid — wrong place, wrong time," said Anderson, tears welling in her eyes. She questioned why Minneapolis has been unwilling or unable to pull Merwin and Winner Gas' business licenses to curb the criminal activity on their property.
At 1 a.m., police responded to another shooting at Bullwinkle's Saloon on S. Washington Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. Police believe a gunfight broke out at a private event at the bar and moved outside to the street. Police, paramedics and firefighters delivered medical aid on the scene to two people. Two more victims showed up to HCMC. One of the victims died at the hospital, and at lease one other suffered potentially life-threatening injuries, said Parten. All four were in their 30s, he said.
Medical examiners have yet to release the identities of the homicide victims.
Community members call for plan
Hours before the first shooting Thursday night, several dozen community members packed into the Cub Foods community center in north Minneapolis, where they asked newly appointed Community Safety Commissioner Cedric Alexander for his vision to address violent crime.
Among the first queries lobbed at him was how to tackle longstanding issues at Merwin Liquors and Winner Gas. "What is the plan to collaborate MPD and violence interrupters — and can this plan be accomplished in three to six months?"
"I can do everything I can to say 'close them,'" Alexander said. "But they have rights too. …The quickest way to [get results] is for the community to say, 'We're tired of this, you're either going to get more security or do something, or we're gonna be here to contest these violent acts.'"
A man sitting in the back of the room jumped up to respond: "It's not the community's job to put our lives on the line because of the violence; it's the government's job," he said.
City Council member Jeremiah Ellison said he's in talks with Merwin management and "cautiously optimistic" that they appear to be earnestly engaged. But he said this is only the latest instance of city officials examining this problem corner, and previous efforts have fallen short.
"I am concerned that there's been plan after plan since I've been in office — and I'm sure since before — and the corner remains the most dangerous in the ward," said Ellison.
The overnight fatalities marked the 63rd and 64th homicides of the year in Minneapolis, according to data tracked by the Star Tribune. That puts the number of killings behind 2021's 70 as of Sept. 9 and incrementally higher than 2020's 60 by this time. In the decade before 2020, murder tallies averaged around 30 for this time of year.
The number of shooting victims in Minneapolis this year has surpassed 400, also down from this time last year but double pre-pandemic levels. About 40% of those shootings occurred in the Fourth Precinct encompassing the North Side; about a quarter are in the Third Precinct in south Minneapolis and 20% were in First Precinct containing downtown.
Police are still searching for suspects and asked anyone with information on any of the shootings to contact CrimeStoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477) or online at CrimeStoppersMN.org.
Staff reporters Jeff Hargarten and Tim Harlow contributed to this report.