A new round of fatal gun violence in St. Paul this weekend has put the city within reach of its deadliest year ever.
Several residents where the shots were fired said Sunday that they’ve seen more and more people they don’t recognize hanging out around the East Side townhouses, throwing dice and causing trouble.
Some wondered if the bloodshed is the new normal.
“It’s no surprise to me,” Sai Vang said of the shootings.
The homicide brings the citywide tally to 28 this year, with four in the past week alone.
The killings come even as city officials are working for answers. Police Chief Todd Axtell beefed up patrols citywide in September after three men were fatally shot in less than 12 hours.
Mayor Melvin Carter on Sunday encouraged residents to attend a series of public safety forums that begin this week.
“Too many in our community continue to come face to face with gun violence,” he said, adding that the community meetings provide a “path forward.”
The first meeting is Thursday night at Central Baptist Church. The others are set for Nov. 12 and Nov. 16.
But at least one council candidate said the city isn’t doing enough.
Kassim Busuri, the interim City Council member representing the Sixth Ward, where the latest homicide occurred, is running for that seat. He attributes the crime wave to concentrated poverty and said he’s been pushing the mayor to “get some funding to reduce the crime on the East Side” for months.
He points to the Group Violence Intervention program as a possible solution. He learned Sunday, he said, that the city didn’t apply for funding that would help pay for the program, which he says has worked in north Minneapolis.
If it had been in place when the year began, “we would not have seen the rates of homicides … that we see today in St. Paul,” he said.
In response, Carter said the causes of concentrated poverty and crime are “both long term and complex,” adding that “any one-dimensional approach requires alarmingly simple thinking.”
‘Becomes the norm’
The latest homicide happened at the Roosevelt Homes townhouse complex at E. Maryland Avenue and Hazelwood Street. Several residents said they heard four or five shots about 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Police said two men were shot in a parking lot behind the complex. One man found lying in the lot with multiple gunshot wounds died at Regions Hospital. Another man, who appeared to have crashed his car after being shot, was slumped over the driver’s seat with injuries to his face and arm. He also was taken to Regions.
No updates were available Sunday night, said St. Paul police spokesman Sgt. Mike Ernster, but the department plans to share the victims’ identities Monday morning.
On Sunday morning, a few carved pumpkins and Halloween decorations adorned porches at the sprawling housing complex, which is near a laundromat and a corner store and has its own playground.
Tay Logan, who has lived in the Roosevelt townhouses for less than two years, said the frequent gunshots keep her from going outside much.
“It just kind of becomes the norm, but it’s not [anything] that you want to be a norm,” said Logan, who has three children.
May Oo said she got home about 9:30 Saturday night to police tape blocking off the parking lots. She drove around for hours until police said it was OK to go home, she said.
Other residents once told her the area was safe, she said, but the atmosphere has changed — as have her car insurance rates, which are now sky-high, she said.
“A lot of trouble, I think, [in the ZIP code] 55106,” she said.
The 28 killings so far this year is the highest number seen in a decade; the city’s worst year on record is 34 homicides in 1992.
At a late-night news conference outside police headquarters Saturday, Ernster urged people to step forward if they know someone with illegal weapons.
St. Paul officers have recovered at least five illegal firearms from the streets last week, he said.
Saturday’s homicide came one day after a man was killed and his wife injured in a shooting in the Highland Park neighborhood. Police said a woman called 911 to report a shooting, and officers found her in an SUV with a gunshot wound to the leg and her husband dead in the driver’s seat.
Two other homicides occurred Oct. 27. A man was shot in the Summit-University neighborhood and officers found a dead man bound and gagged in a Como-Dale apartment.