A month that started with near tragedy for one north Minneapolis family ended with a dose of holiday cheer.
Several Minneapolis police officials, including Chief Medaria Arradondo, delivered dozens of wrapped presents and turkeys to the Harold Mezile North Community YMCA Youth & Teen Center at 1711 W. Broadway Av.
Last week’s gesture, orchestrated by Arradondo and civil rights activist Nekima Levy Armstrong, came in response to the shooting this month of 14-year-old Elijah Boswell, who was struck by an errant bullet as he walked along a North Side street.
An online fundraising campaign has so far raised more than $3,100 but remains well short of the amount that relatives say is needed to pay for surgery to repair wounds he suffered in the shooting.
Levy Armstrong, a former college professor and onetime mayoral candidate, said that Boswell’s mother, Erica Harris, made a plea for more donations for a holiday gathering at the Y for needy families and children. On a whim, Levy Armstrong said she called Arradondo for help.
Within hours, she wrote in a social media post, the chief and officer Jason Anderson, who oversees the department’s chaplain program, showed up at the center with a haul of toys and food — “30 hams, toys for 75 children, and a boatload of toys for Elijah, including a bike and guitar.” Levy Armstrong and others also chipped in with donations of food.
Harris, she said, was overcome with joy, refusing to let Arradondo and Anderson leave without sampling some of her peach cobbler.
The episode was a testament to the power of community coming together to take care of one of its own, Levy Armstrong wrote on her Facebook page. That the two police officers showed up without TV cameras in tow made the moment all the more meaningful, she said.
“This situation shows that change begins with leadership in terms of building bridges with the community,” she said in an interview Monday. “There weren’t any cameras, except for our camera phones.”
Levy Armstrong, who has gained a national reputation for speaking out against police violence, said that the episode gave her hope for someday mending relations between law enforcement and communities of color.
Still, she said, she would continue to call out injustices in the future: “Chief Arradondo knows that I will continue to challenge the Minneapolis Police Department to make systemic changes and to do less harm in the community and to build stronger relationships — and he has said that that is what he expects of me.”
Police Department spokesman John Elder said that each year around the holidays, many officers volunteer time and money for a wide range of charitable endeavors, usually with little recognition. While Arradondo and Anderson were at the Y, he said, officers with the department’s Bike Cops for Kids program were handing out toys and food to children across town.
Harris has said in television interviews that her son was on his way to the store to buy snacks on the evening of Dec. 10 when he walked into the crossfire of a shooting between two groups. One of the bullets pierced the middle-schooler’s cheek and shattered some of his teeth, relatives said.
The investigation into the incident, which left two other people injured, is ongoing. A since-deleted recording of the shooting’s chaotic aftermath showed Boswell standing in the doorway of a nearby business before sitting down in apparent shock, as bystanders tried to stop the bleeding with paper towels.
Police have so far not released information about a possible motive for the shooting but insisted that they are investigating all leads, including the possibility that the shooting was over a drug turf dispute.