Minneapolis police are investigating a man's death at the homeless encampment along Minnehaha Park Drive, a police spokesman said Sunday afternoon.
The death, initially reported by police to be that of a woman, was reported just as volunteers were stepping up efforts to get people the encampment in the 4900 block of Minnehaha Park Drive.
The arrival of several squad cars just after 12:15 p.m. caused most other residents to flee, thinking the police had arrived to clear the camp, spokesman John Elder said.
City and Park Police officers found the man in a tent, showing signs of trauma. He was pronounced dead at the scene, Elder said.
The death is being investigated as suspicious, but it is not yet determined if it was a homicide, he said.
Police are asking that anyone who might have been in the area and have information call the homicide unit at 612-673-2941.
The Park Board posted signs on Dec. 31 seeking to have people left the encampment within 72 hours. Park Board spokeswoman Dawn Sommers said Sunday that volunteers were working with people to have them leave voluntarily for other places where shelter was available.
The camp and others have created health and safety problems for residents and others, the city said. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul have wrestled with how to handle homelessness in their cities over the past year and beyond.
If the man's death is ruled a homicide, it would be the first one in the city in 2021.
In 2020, Minneapolis had 82 homicides, making it the third worst year for killings. The grim record was set in 1995, when the city had 97 homicides, followed by 1996, when there were 83. In all of 2019, there were 48 homicides in Minneapolis.
The city experienced a sharp uptick in violent crime after the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody, which sparked protests and unrest nationwide.
St. Paul had 34 homicides in 2020, tying 1992's record. The city had 31 homicides in 2019.