By LIBOR JANY  and ERIN GOLDEN

Star Tribune staff writers

A north Minneapolis artist and community activist was killed in a home invasion Thursday morning, the latest in a recent flare-up of violence on the North Side.

Neighbors identified the victim as Susan Spiller, renowned for her colorful glasswork and artistic lampshades. In a news conference Thursday afternoon, police did not identify Spiller, but a visibly shaken City Council President Barb Johnson said the victim was an artist, a neighborhood leader, and a personal friend.

Johnson said Spiller was on the boards of the neighborhood association and the Northside Arts Collective, and did "beautiful beadwork" as an artist -- including on a rope she made for Johnson so the council member wouldn't misplace her sunglasses.

"I can't tell you how upset people are in north Minneapolis because of the loss of this lady," Johnson said. "This is the neighborhood I grew up in: little story-and-a-half bungalows. When I grew up there were seven kids living in those houses. Now some have families in them, but some have single ladies living in them by themselves. And they are afraid -- and they're going to be more afraid." 

Neighbors said Spiller’s son arrived in the morning with his 1-year-old son and noticed the back door kicked open. He called police, who arrived and found Spiller dead.

Police said they got the call just before 9 a.m. When officers arrived, they found signs of forced entry and the Spiller's body. Spiller was 68 years old and lived in the 5100 block of Dupont Avenue North.

Investigators are treating the case as a homicide and so far have made no arrests. Police provided little additional information at Thursday's news conference, but said they are stepping up patrols in north Minneapolis in response to the home invasion and a spike in other violent crimes in the area.

In a separate incident early Thursday in north Minneapolis, two men were shot, one fatally, at a home in the 2300 block of Thomas Avenue N.

Eight additional patrol officers have been assigned to the area, with a focus on five separate "hot spots" scattered throughout the Police Department's Fourth Precinct. Police are also increasing the number of officers patrolling on bike, and horseback and on foot to boost the number of interactions with community members.

So far this year, the city has seen 26 homicides and 111 non-fatal shootings, with two-thirds of those shootings happening on the north side. Overall, non-fatal shootings are up just under 7 percent in Minneapolis from last year. The number of robberies are down and overall, violent crime is up slightly.

Mayor Betsy Hodges said officials are aware people are concerned about recent events and the city is reacting accordingly.

"We know that those crimes are wrong and we are doing everything in our power to apprehend those suspects, to solve those crimes where they have yet to be solved and also to prevent future crime, future shootings and future homicides," she said. "Everyone deserves to be safe and to feel safe in their homes, on their blocks and in their neighborhoods."

In Spiller's neighborhood on Thursday, neighbor Anissa Moore said she was on edge.

"I don't understand it," she said. "I did feel safe. Now I don't know. What do we do? I have kids here. I don't know if they're gonna be safe."

Anyone with information is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or send an anonymous tip to CRIMES (274637) and begin message with: TIP674 or call the MPD tip line at 612-692-TIPS (8477).  The case numbers are 15-263264.

Susan Spiller (submitted photo)

Susan Spiller (submitted photo)