Gunmen unleashed a torrent of bullets in a crowded block in the heart of Minneapolis’ Uptown area early Sunday, killing one person and wounding 11 others in one of the city’s most violent shootings in recent memory.
The gunfire sent terrified bar patrons and revelers in the area, newly crowded after weeks of COVID-19 closures, diving for cover, unsure of what was unfolding. Bystanders and police officers rushed to help the wounded and to get people to safety.
One man was killed, police said. Family and friends identified him on social media as Cody C. Pollard, 27, a father of two small children and a talented barber called Cody Loc by friends. The 11 survivors, all adults, were scattered at area hospitals with wounds of varying severity, but all were expected to survive.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo called the carnage “tragic and senseless” and said the FBI and state agencies will assist his department as it deals with the recent surge in shootings around the city.
“We have seen unfortunately in the past several months an uptick in violent crime in Minneapolis, and we are certainly doing our best to address that,” the chief said. “This is going to take more than just the Minneapolis Police Department. The numbers we are seeing are truly ... a public health crisis.”
FBI spokesman Kevin Smith confirmed that the FBI is in close communication with Minneapolis police, “assessing what assets we can bring to bear here.”
“First, we can bring significant intelligence and investigative tools to this particular shooting, as well as provide additional tools and resources in the coming days and weeks,” he said.
Arradondo said police “absolutely do have several leads” on suspects, but no arrests had been announced by Sunday night. He also said the overnight mayhem had no connection to the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody, which prompted violent protests in the days that followed.
Mayor Jacob Frey said the fresh violence “only compounds our grief” over Floyd’s death.
“The lawlessness serves no purpose and it won’t be tolerated,” he said. “Local residents deserve better.”
Frey called the recent shootings “totally a distraction from the work we need on the structural police reforms we need to do.”
The violence began at 12:37 a.m. Sunday during a large gathering in the 2900 block of Hennepin Avenue, said police spokesman John Elder. Officers responding to multiple 911 calls found multiple gunshot victims and learned that others had left the scene in private vehicles.
The area, known for its bars and boisterous nightlife, had been bustling the past few nights as several businesses reopened. Hennepin Avenue had been partly blocked off to prevent road racing and to accommodate large crowds.
A Facebook Live video posted by K.G. Wilson, a longtime peace activist, showed the shooting’s chaotic aftermath, with bystanders tending to several victims sitting on a curb. The scene was awash in flashing blue and red lights. A police officer and a bystander could be seen carrying a wounded person to a waiting ambulance.
On Sunday, business owners and citizens in the 2900 block of Hennepin Avenue swept up glass from windows shattered by bullets and hosed blood off the sidewalks. A few flower bouquets had been laid at the site of the most intense gunfire, and people came by both to gawk and to pray.
Wilson returned to the area Sunday, still shaken by how close the bullets had come to him.
“I really thought last night I was going to be the victim, that I was going to lose my life,” he said as he stood outside Hoban Korean BBQ, where boards covered two windows that had been shot out. “I’m heartbroken by what I saw here last night and what I experienced and what I barely escaped.”
Hoban remained closed Sunday, but several other nearby businesses were open. However, several, including Cowboy Slim’s, the Uptown Tavern, the Pourhouse and the Fremont Restaurant & Bar, closed early Sunday evening. Foot traffic was light in the area, partly because of rainfall.
Joseph “Smalls” Johnson, manager of Williams Uptown Pub and Peanut Bar, said his bar had a long line out the door when the gunfire erupted. Some customers sheltered in the pub’s basement while others left via the back door to avoid Hennepin Avenue.
Business has been bustling the past two weeks, he said, with people delighted to be out with friends again. But it was slow Sunday night, and he said he too was considering closing early.
“I want all of us to be open, but I want us to be safe,” he said. “We’re not back to normal yet. It’s going to be a while.”
‘Pretty much speechless’
Hours after the shooting Sunday, Alyssa Tyson paced nervously outside HCMC while her 23-year-old daughter, Taija, was inside for treatment after being shot twice. One bullet had ripped through her leg, striking her femur, while another had grazed her arm, according to her mother.
Alyssa Tyson said that her daughter, who works as a personal care assistant, had gone to Uptown with a male companion, who had also been shot, with a bullet passing close to his spine.
“The young lady who was with my daughter said it was, like, 80 shots,” she said.
She said she was shocked to hear how many people were shot. “I’m just pretty much speechless,” she said. “That’s a lot of people’s lives about to be changed, and for one person, that’s no more Christmases, no more birthdays.”
Violence up; reasons unclear
The shooting was one of several across the city since Saturday afternoon, continuing a rash of gun violence since the unrest over the police killing of Floyd, with more than 90 people shot in Minneapolis since May 26.
Yet another fatal shooting took place Sunday night in Minneapolis. Officers found a 17-year-old boy suffering from a gunshot wound in the 3000 block of N. Knox Avenue. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His death marked the city’s 25th homicide of the year.
Criminologists have noted similar patterns in other cities — most recently Baltimore, which saw violent crime rise in the wake of a police killing — offering a variety of possible explanations, from eroded confidence in police to officers pulling back on their duties because of the intense public backlash.
Last week, Elder scoffed at the suggestion that officers were showing less initiative. “Our officers are still responding to calls, they are still addressing calls, and the fact that anybody would think that there is a stand-down order or some sort of work stoppage, that is patently false,” he said.
He said the surge in shootings coincided with the start of summer.
Sunday’s mass shooting was one of the most violent in recent city history. Earlier this month, seven people were shot, one fatally, when a brawl in a north Minneapolis bar escalated into gunfire.
In the city’s deadliest mass shooting, a gunman burst into Accent Signage Systems in 2012 and fatally shot six people before turning the gun on himself.
‘We saw humanity last night’
On Sunday, Frey praised the police response to the overnight shooting.
“Last night, the first officer was on the scene in three minutes,” he said. “He was from the bike rapid response team. Our officers have seen a lot of violence in the last couple of weeks. They are working diligently to serve the public’s needs, and I appreciate them.”
City Council President Lisa Bender, whose ward includes Uptown, said Minneapolis and “communities all over the country need to be getting all these guns out of our streets.”
Bender, one of several council members who called for dismantling the city’s Police Department after Floyd’s death, said, “This is a reminder that we need to do more proactively to stop this type of violence.”
Arradondo praised his officers for “responding very courageously to the sound of shots fired,” as well as bystanders who helped the wounded.
“We saw officers and we saw community members rushing to aid those victims, to assist them to get to EMS personnel,” he said. “I do believe ... we saw humanity last night. And that really and truly inspires me, and it says there is hope here in our city, and it will remain in our city.”
Staff writer David Chanen contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org 612-673-4751 email@example.com 612-673-4064 firstname.lastname@example.org 612-673-4482