Authorities are winding down a violent crime task force created to quell a surge in shootings after the police killing of George Floyd.
U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald, who set up the task force, said it had accomplished its mission to arrest and charge some of the area’s most violent criminals.
The Twin Cities Violent Crime Task Force closed its command center and will no longer meet daily but will continue to meet virtually as needed, with quarterly face-to-face meetings, MacDonald said.
“These were targeted operations,” she said of the task force’s work. “We feel we made an impact.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that during the task force’s 60-day run, it had charged 22 people federally, 15 of them in the first month and seven in the second month. At least 19 others were charged in state courts, and 156 guns were taken off the streets.
“The partnership was great,” Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson said Friday. “And it yielded good results. I’m happy with the 60 days.”
Daijon Lewis Miles, 28, of Minneapolis, was among those charged because of the task force. He allegedly used a gun to rob two liquor stores and a gas station in Minneapolis and St. Paul. He was charged under the Hobbs Act, passed by Congress in 1946, which allows federal prosecutors to charge those who commit armed robberies of businesses doing interstate commerce. Convictions carry lengthy prison terms.
Felons caught with firearms also were targeted. Michael Allen Burrell, 40, of Shakopee, was charged Sept. 1 with one such count. Gage Anthony Norris, 25, of Minneapolis, was charged Aug. 21, also on one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.
Minneapolis data show that shootings surged after Floyd’s death, then dropped significantly in July and August, although the numbers remain higher than a year ago.
The task force was created in July, comprising about a dozen federal, state and local law enforcement agencies with a plan to operate for 30 days.
It was extended in August for another 30 days before MacDonald decided to end the daily meetings and close the command center.
During the first month, the FBI hosted the command center and representatives of the various agencies met each morning to exchange information and plans. In the second month, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office hosted the task force.
MacDonald said the task force sprung from a call she got from Hutchinson in June, describing a surge in shooting victims and homicides, mostly in Minneapolis and adjacent suburbs.
“I asked her if her office and my staff could have better communication so my investigators could send her cases,” Hutchinson said in a recent interview.
MacDonald said she convened a meeting of representatives of law enforcement agencies “to discuss what we can do as leaders to quell this violence and make our communities safe. It was a consensus among all of us that it should be U.S. attorney-led,” she said. “We need all hands on deck.”
Amber Brennan, deputy section chief for firearms and violent crime cases at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, acknowledged that some people would have been charged had there been no task force.
“But having the task force and having the combination of resources has expedited so many of these arrests,” Brennan said. The whole idea, she said, was that there was a crisis this summer and a need to get guns and violent criminals off the street.
“We wanted an assistant U.S. attorney there to make sure there was a streamlined process for lawyers to review cases and when it’s appropriate to prepare charges,” she said. “In the normal course of business, I am sitting in my office and officers who want to present cases typically meet with me in a face-to-face meeting. In this instance, we decided we should go to them, go to law enforcement departments, because they are all working overdrive to make the streets safe.”
The task force had a wrap-up meeting Thursday and agreed to continue to work together, including a plan to hold virtual meetings when needed, although the exact format has not been worked out, said Capt. Spencer Bakke of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.
“Our relationship has been strengthened,” Bakke said. “We want to make an impact to reduce violent crime and gun violence.”