A group of violent robbers struck six Uptown pedestrians three nights in a row within a six-block area, beating people into concussions with fists, kicks and, in at least one case, a set of brass knuckles, while taking phones and wallets, Minneapolis police said.

Two attacks were so similar that police officers, paramedics and emergency room nurses all told victim Joshua Houser that they suspected he had been jumped by the same guys who sent people to the hospital just 48 hours earlier, Houser said.

"It was a robbery, but it was an assault, too," said Houser, who said he and his friend were punched repeatedly. He suffered a concussion. He said his friend, a woman who offered no resistance to the man who knocked her down, was hit several times even after she gave up her wallet.

The three attacks occurred between 11:30 p.m. and 1 a.m., one attack each night starting in the early hours of Sunday morning, in an area bound by Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues, W. 32nd Street to W. 25th Street.

Victims described the suspects as three or four men between the ages of 20 and 30, wearing black hooded sweatshirts and being either Hispanic or American Indian. One victim said he was struck by an African-American man, but thought the other attackers were Hispanic.

In two incidents, the suspects walked past people on the sidewalk, waiting until they were abreast or behind their targets before attacking.

Fifth Precinct police issued a crime alert Tuesday afternoon warning Uptown residents about the robberies. "This is an unusual trend for the precinct and especially for Uptown," the alert stated.

The first attack reported to police over the weekend was early Sunday, when Jay Ness, 25, and a friend were walking home from a party. They were in the 1200 block of 28th Street W. when four young men wearing black hooded sweatshirts passed them on the sidewalk.

"The next thing I knew I was getting bashed in the face with brass knuckles," Ness said. The attack lasted 30 seconds, he said. He told the attackers they could take whatever they wanted, but that didn't stop the beating, which included kicks to his head after he fell, he said. He was hospitalized for a concussion and cuts to his scalp and ear. Ness said his friend required surgery for damage to his face and eye socket.

About 24 hours later, two men walking in the 2500 block of Colfax Avenue S. were attacked and robbed at 12:03 a.m. Monday by at least two suspects. Those victims were unavailable for comment.

The next night, Houser and his friend were attacked in the 900 block of W. 32nd Street at 11:28 p.m. Monday. Houser said the men walked past him, even nodded hello, before the largest one turned and blindsided him with a punch to his temple.

"They were trying to knock me down," said Houser, who said he wrestled with two men while a third suspect knocked down his friend. Houser gave up his bookbag containing a computer, wallet and other items but the men continued to punch him in the face. The fight ended with one of the suspects lifting his shirt to show Houser a handgun tucked into his waistband.

"You want me to shoot you, bro?" he asked Houser, before running off. The three men drove away in a late model white minivan that was parked nearby.

The incidents follow a string of similar aggravated robberies dating back to February in the Dinkytown area near the University of Minnesota. In those cases police say they are looking for three suspects described as Hispanic males ages 18 to 25 who may be responsible for four attacks dating back to Feb. 20. In those cases, too, pedestrians were knocked down from behind or ordered to the ground before being robbed of mobile phones, wallets, and other belongings.

None of the Dinkytown victims required hospitalization. No weapons were used in those attacks, but the suspects were becoming increasingly brazen, police said.

Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747


Tips can be called into 612-673-2941 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).