A toddler was killed and another wounded Friday when they were caught in an apparent drive-by shooting in north Minneapolis, capping an especially violent week in the Twin Cities and around the country.

Witnesses said the shooting, which occurred about 11:30 a.m. at the intersection of Penn and Lowry avenues N., was gang-related. Minneapolis police spokesman Corey Schmidt said he couldn’t ­confirm that, but added that police believe that the two parties involved knew each other.

The children were shot as they sat in a vehicle driven by their father. Two-year-old Le’Vonte King Jason Jones died after the father rushed him to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. His 15-month-old sister, Mela Queen Melvina Jones, was shot in the leg and hospitalized in stable condition.

No one has been arrested. Police said they are reviewing footage from security cameras in the area.

After the gunfire, family members, friends and community activists gathered outside the hospital, reeling from grief — and anger that two babies had been caught in the crossfire.

“My sons aren’t the best boys, but my grandson didn’t deserve to go,” said the babies’ grandmother.

The week’s bad news began with the fatal police shooting of a black man in Baton Rouge, La., followed by another nationally reported killing in Minnesota. Philando Castile, of St. Paul, was fatally shot Wednesday night during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights.

Protests that sprouted up in the Twin Cities and around the country on Thursday were peaceful until a gunman in Dallas killed five police officers and wounded several others in a terrifying ambush.

“All this violence is adding up,” said V.J. Smith of MAD DADS. “This is frustrating for a community that already has suffered so much. We’re overwhelmed. Folks are trigger-happy, depressed, frustrated, totally exhausted from all of this.”

The community is “severely hurting” with the shooting of two babies, he said. “Who would do something like that?”

‘Turn them in!’

Less than five hours after the toddlers were shot, about 50 people gathered at Lowry and Penn. Passing cars honked as Marvin Gaye music played from the MAD DADS vehicle while chants of “Somebody knows who killed that baby!” echoed from the crowd.

The crowd parted as the babies’ mother, Lashae Jones, arrived, clutching a small yellow stuffed animal. Friends and bystanders pressed closer to Jones as ministers called for prayer and peace. The crowd quoted scripture and sang gospel songs, all the while holding onto one another.

The crowd chanted “Turn them in!” and “It ain’t ­snitching!”

By the end of the rally, Jones’ hands were full — with flowers, with cash and with the stuffed animal she had arrived with.

Pastor Danny Givens Jr. spoke softly, keeping his arm around the babies’ mother, who is his cousin.

It was a marked change from his speeches Thursday, when he yelled “This is black grief!” at the rally for his friend Castile.

“I couldn’t believe that this could happen again so close to home,” Givens said as the vigil ended. “A 4-year-old was in the car with Philando, and now this. Why are we letting our babies witness death? Why are we letting our babies die?”

As he stood outside the hospital emergency room entrance earlier in the day, Givens said he was tending to his family members as they grieved.

“I have to make sure my family’s OK,” he said. He paused, then added: “It will never be OK. There will never be a sense of normalcy. … The community is in such extreme stress and duress.”

And there’s no making sense of how two babies can end up in the crossfire, ­Givens said. “I’ve done my share of wrong in my life, but I can’t understand what would make someone say, ‘I’m going to get you even if you have kids with you,’ ” he said.

Pastor Jayme Ali of God of All Truth Church in Minneapolis was sitting outside the hospital minutes after the shooting when the children’s father ran into the emergency room with one of the bloodied children.

“All we know is shots ring out, a child is dead and another is fighting for life,” she said.


Staff writers Mara Klecker and Tim Harlow contributed to this report.