A shootout at a popular St. Paul bar killed one woman and injured at least 14 early Sunday morning, marking the city's largest mass shooting in recent history.
"We have so many lives that have been impacted, that have been lost, that have been changed forever because someone pulled the trigger or had access to a gun who really shouldn't have," Mayor Melvin Carter said at a news conference Sunday afternoon.
Carter described the shooting at Seventh Street Truck Park, a busy bar and restaurant a block south of Xcel Energy Center, as "one of the most heartbreaking incidents in any of our memory."
"The reason we're so shocked and appalled and heartbroken anytime something like this happens is because we're not used to things like this happening in our city and because we don't accept things like this happening in our city," he said.
DJ Peter Parker experienced the shock firsthand. After two decades of shows spanning Baltimore, D.C., Boston and beyond, Parker knows how to read the room from a bird's-eye view on stage to anticipate any trouble from crowds.
But the former GO 95.3 radio host could have never anticipated a show in St. Paul would turn so violent that he'd have to dive offstage to avoid gunfire.
"I've never had anybody shoot inside a party ever, especially in a place we felt was a very safe place," Parker said.
Like every Saturday night for the past four months, Parker was playing mainstream hip-hop to a crowd of mostly young women. Around 12:15 a.m., Parker said a dozen or so gunshots rang out. The crowd hit the ground and Parker cut the music only to hear screaming. He said he didn't see a scuffle or altercation leading up to the shooting.
Within seconds, the crowd ran outside the bar and he saw several people on the floor, including a woman in her 20s who was killed. "My heart is broken for the girl who died," Parker said.
Police confirmed the victim's name as Marquisha Wiley. The Pioneer Press reports the 27-year-old was a veterinary technician from St. Paul. Her death is the 32nd homicide in St. Paul this year. In 2020, the city matched its one-year record with 34 homicides, the same number as 1992.
St. Paul police say among the wounded were three suspects who were arrested Sunday afternoon. The men, ages 33, 32 and 29, were taken to area hospitals for treatment before being apprehended. The Star Tribune does not typically name suspects until they are formally charged.
People began "frantically" calling 911 shortly after midnight Sunday and begging for help, and police arrived to a "hellish situation," said St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell.
"I spoke with the homicide victim's family this morning and they are absolutely devastated," Axtell tweeted. "I am incredibly proud of the exhausted women and men of the SPPD."
On a Sunday morning walk with her labradoodle Shiloh, Amber Remackel was so overcome with emotion that she sat across the street from the Truck Park at a table outside Cossetta's Italian Market & Pizzeria and wept. The mother and school counselor said she's lived in the neighborhood for the past six years and has never seen such violence.
"It's way too close to home," she said, wiping away tears.
Remackel said she just picked up her 21-year-old daughter and a group of Iowa State University friends on Friday night from the Truck Park. "It's a fun place to be in St. Paul," she said of the bar, which is always packed on weekends.
"I walk this neighborhood at all times of the night with my dog and never felt unsafe," she said.
Police spokesman Steve Linders said he was not aware of any recent calls for police service to the bar. He said the department's video team is recovering and reviewing security footage from the bar. He wouldn't say how many guns were recovered from the scene.
The Truck Park is in a popular restaurant and bar district along W. Seventh Street, home to longtime restaurants and bars such as Cossetta, Mancini's Char House and Patrick McGovern's Pub. In recent years, the neighborhood has been in the midst of a building boom, with several upscale apartment and condo buildings sprouting up, along with new breweries, restaurants and bars, like the Truck Park.
"It's just not on our radar as a spot where we see this type of thing," Linders said. "We don't see this type of thing anywhere."
Good Samaritans and security guards at the bar helped first responders render aid to victims. Videos circulating on social media show sidewalks flooded with stunned patrons crying and lying on the ground.
Northbound W. Seventh Street was reduced to one lane Sunday morning outside the Truck Park as a yellow crime-scene barrier stretched from Chestnut Street to the sidewalk in front of Hampton Inn and Suites. Some people staying at the hotel and nearby residents said they didn't hear any shooting.
Debris of leaves, bloodied bandages and plastic cups littered the cordoned-off sidewalk. A St. Paul police forensics van parked inside the barrier along with several other vehicles left there from Saturday night. People out on morning walks, and in Vikings gear headed to watch the game, passed the scene, taking pictures and pointing.
Dave Cossetta, owner of the restaurant that's been in the neighborhood since 1911 and on W. Seventh Street since the 1980s, said crime has been an increasing concern in the area. He said he and other business owners link the increase to the Freedom House, a homeless shelter a few blocks away from Cossetta.
"Seventh Street has become a lot more dangerous lately," Cossetta said. "There's been a lot of issues more than ever and that's pretty much the way it's been for over a year. I don't know the circumstances across the street but it's been a common theme lately."
Cossetta said there have been confrontations outside his restaurant, and he said guys have pulled knives on people in broad daylight. "It's scary," he said. "There's stuff going on in the day. In the nighttime it only accelerates."
He said city officials have not listened to local business owners' concerns about the recent crime wave.
Molly Jalma, executive director of the Listening House, which operates the Freedom House in the former fire station on W. Seventh Street, said she spoke with the shelter's off-duty police officer who worked Saturday night and said Freedom House guests had no involvement in the shooting.
"This wasn't an issue of people who are unsheltered," she said. "This is an issue of gun violence."
Linders said his partner in the department for 15 years "can't remember anything like this in her tenure."
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who represents St. Paul, issued a statement saying, "We must never allow this kind of criminal act to happen again."
Staff writers Paul Walsh and Chris Riemenschneider contributed to this report.
Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751