St. Paul police are investigating after a 2-year-old boy was struck and killed by gunfire in the city's North End on Wednesday, the latest in a string of deadly shootings that have surpassed totals not seen since the mid-'90s.
Officers were called to an apartment building at 850 Rice St. about 1:15 p.m. on a report of a child who had "hurt his head." On arrival, they learned that the toddler suffered a gunshot wound. He died in the ambulance eight minutes later, said police spokesman Steve Linders.
Three teenagers reportedly in the home at the time were taken downtown to be questioned by detectives. It's not immediately clear who was holding the gun when it discharged or whether there were others involved.
"At this time, we don't know if this was accidental, self-inflicted or intentional," said Linders, who extended his condolences to the child's family and broader community, likely "shocked by this." "These are really tough calls for our officers, especially this time of year."
Investigators combed trash cans for evidence outside the Winnipeg Apartments complex as a snowstorm raged around them.
The shooting punctuated a traumatic year marked by surging gun violence in the Twin Cities, the coronavirus pandemic and the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Tyrone Terrill, president of the African American Leadership Council, got emotional speaking about the latest young victim, urging leaders to renew focus on the issue next year.
"We're supposed to protect our children," he told the Star Tribune. "People treat this as if it's OK."
If the child's death is ruled a homicide, it would mark St. Paul's 34th homicide of 2020 — and the fourth in just 10 days — tying the capital city's deadliest year of 1992. Earlier this month, St. Paul surpassed 200 gunshot victims for the first time in a single year.
Recent cases include a 17-year-old shot in the face by an acquaintance after the two allegedly argued over a gun in a stolen car; a 55-year-old man seemingly struck at random while driving on University Avenue, and a 56-year-old man found fatally shot inside a vehicle abandoned at an Arco gas station.
And Monday, bullets tore through the walls of a Dayton's Bluff apartment, narrowly missing the crib of a 5-month-old baby and a toddler sleeping nearby. Police found 10 shell casings littering the street. Shootings have also plagued Minneapolis this year, where more than 500 people have been maimed and 81 killed by gunfire — the highest homicide count since the mid-1990s.