As evening approached Wednesday, dozens of Arionna Buckanaga’s relatives and friends gathered on a south Minneapolis street corner, playing drums and chanting prayers for the 18-year-old gravely wounded in a shooting earlier this week.
Buckanaga was shot late Monday when someone fired into the car she and a male companion were driving in on Cedar Avenue, causing the car to veer off the road and slam into a tree near 39th Street.
The male companion, who police suspect was the intended the target of the attack, wasn’t injured.
Members of the department’s crisis response team said they were told by the family that Buckanaga was on life support and had no brain function.
No arrests had been announced as of Wednesday. Police haven’t offered a description of the suspect vehicle, nor said whether the shooting was related to any other recent gunfire incidents in the area.
At Wednesday’s vigil, speaker after speaker shared memories of Buckanaga, the mother of a young son, often referring to her by her nickname, “Ari.” Heads nodded when V.J. Smith, of the violence prevention group MAD DADS, called on the men in the crowd to stop the violence and “protect our sisters.”
A group of men sat in a circle, thumping on a calfskin drum and singing — “to help her on her journey,” as one man explained. In between songs, they invited people to sprinkle tobacco on the drum as a blessing.
As they played, a little girl walked through the crowd with a bowl of burning incense, as people leaned over and waved the swirling smoke over their bodies. Some wore face masks.
One of Buckanaga’s aunts, Rebecca, also spoke at the vigil, thanking the crowd of more than 100 for coming and asking for their continued support of her family.
“This is really hard for them and they have a long road ahead of them so they really, really need your prayers,” she said, adding the Ojibwe word for thank you: “Miigwetch.”
Another aunt, Jana Williams, said that if Buckanaga died, it wouldn’t be in vain, as her relatives had decided to donate her organs.
“We may see her eyes looking back at us,” Williams said. “We may see her heart.”