A gravely wounded 2-year-old girl struck in the head by crossfire while in the backyard of her home in St. Paul’s North End was fighting for her life Monday as authorities continued to search for the gunman and determine a motive.
The girl and two adults were wounded in a volley of gunfire around 12:10 a.m. on the 200 block of W. Maryland Avenue, said spokesman Steve Linders of the St. Paul Police Department.
A neighbor, Dennis Hudson, heard the commotion and the rapid fire of gunshots, then stepped outside to find the girl’s father, Shawn Vang holding his daughter and saying “Dennis, my baby has just been shot. Call the police.”
Hudson and Vang applied pressure to the girl’s wounds until paramedics took her to Regions Hospital where she underwent emergency surgery. Hudson said Vang told him Monday afternoon that the girl wasn’t doing very well.
“When I asked a homicide detective on the scene how she was going, he just closed his eyes and shook his head,” said Hudson, who has known Vang for a year.
The girl, whose name has not been released, remained in critical condition Monday afternoon. Vang and the other man, Lee Lor, 27, were hit in the back by bullets, said police. Both were treated for noncritical injuries, Hudson said.
Nobody has been arrested, and Linders was pleading for people to come forward with information. He didn’t know if the shooting was gang-related. Vang and Lor do not have criminal records.
“Some witnesses cooperated, but there were several others who wouldn’t talk,” he said. “The police are working very hard, but they can’t do this alone.”
The shootings don’t appear to be random, and there is a connection between the shooter or shooters and one of the adult victims, said Linders. The exact nature of their relationship remains under investigation.
Vang and about 20 others were having a Father’s Day celebration when the shooting took place. Police were already patrolling the area and heard gunshots before dozens of neighbors called 911. Police raced to the scene and found the victims and said, “Hurry up with medics,” according to a recording posted on the website Minnesota Police Clips. “Send plenty of medics,” the recording said.
The girl was not conscious or breathing at the scene when paramedics arrived and rushed her to the hospital, the recording said.
Hudson, who neighbors said is the unofficial mayor of the neighborhood and has lived on Maryland Avenue for the past 10 years, said “whoever did this is a low-life coward.”
Detectives and a forensics team were at the house where the shooting took place, looking for evidence in the yard, where there were the remnants of a party. Beer cans were strewn across the lawn. There also was a children’s swimming pool, and bathing suits hung on the clothesline.
Police removed the yellow crime scene tape around the house about 2:30 p.m. and the police forensics van drove away. None of the residents was at home.
Neighbor John Danial, who has lived across the street for the past 18 months, said it was not uncommon for the residents to host parties on the weekends. He said nine to 10 adults lived in the house.
He was asleep when his parents woke him and told him about the incident and that squad cars were outside.
“I feel very sad for the girl,” said Danial. “Unfortunately, I’m used to seeing people get hurt.”
Danial said he had seen people get shot and his own car was bombed while he lived in Iraq. But back in St. Paul, he said he felt safe in the normally quiet neighborhood.
“I never thought I’d hear or see such a thing again,” he said. “It’s still an uneasy feeling.”
Hudson, who lives next door to Vang, was returning from a family gathering when Vang asked him if he wanted a drink. Hudson said he was good, but five to 10 minutes later he heard “pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.” His 19-year-old daughter then came into the house yelling, “Dad, dad, dad!” and the two crouched down as the shots rang out.
Hudson said Vang was a good father who loved his kids and that the two were good friends who liked to work on cars together. Vang also has a 6-month and 6-year-old daughter.
Linder said gun violence in St. Paul is up 65 percent compared to this same time last year. A family was devastated Monday, kids don’t feel safe and officers put their lives in danger responding to violent incidents, he said.
“We need people to call us, on this case or if they see somebody carrying an illegal gun anywhere in the city,” he said.
Anybody with information on the shooting can call the homicide unit at 651-266-5650.
Staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report.