• Tue. Jun 22nd, 2021

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St. Thomas student among three killed in Minneapolis shootings. Community leaders offer reward after a violent night. – TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press

Minneapolis city leaders are calling for the community’s help in stopping the recent spate of violence that left three people dead and nine injured Friday night and early Saturday. One of the deceased was supposed to graduate from the University of St. Thomas later that day.

A cap and gown rest on an empty chair Saturday, May 22, 2021, at University of St. Thomas graduation ceremonies in St. Paul, representing students who had died including Charlie Johnson, an engineering student shot to death early Saturday in Minneapolis. (Courtesy of the University of St. Thomas)

The gunfire happened as the community was still recovering from three prior shootings that left two children injured and a third dead. Community leaders are expected on Sunday to offer a reward for information on these shootings.

“These brazen senseless acts of gun violence must stop,”  said Minneapolis Chief of Police Medaria Arradondo. “The perpetrators of these crimes should never find refuge or anonymity in our communities…We need help from community leaders and residents to stand up and speak out denouncing loudly that they will not tolerate this violence as well.”

TWO DEAD, EIGHT INJURED

According to the Minneapolis Police Department, officers were patrolling near the 300 block of North First Avenue about 2 a.m. when they heard gunshots and ran toward the scene.

They arrived to find  “an exceptionally chaotic scene” outside the Monarch nightclub, with several people lying on the ground suffering from gunshot wounds, police spokesman John Elder said in a statement.

As officers treated the victims, they found two men who had died from gunshot wounds.

Of the 10 victims, five were men and five were women. One of the men was listed in critical condition Saturday and the other victims have non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Investigators believe two people were standing in a crowded area when they began arguing. Both pulled out guns and started shooting.

Officers attempted to secure the scene and get paramedics into the area but had difficulty due to the number of people nearby, Elder said. Officers from inside and outside Minneapolis were summoned to help restore order.

On Saturday night, Elder said a 23-year-old Bloomington man had been arrested and booked on probable cause murder charges in the Monarch shooting. Elder said the man was one of two shooters and the other was one of the victims.

The University of St. Thomas community identified one of the deceased men as Charlie Johnson, a senior mechanical engineering major, who was going to graduate Saturday.

Camille Johnson accepts a degree Saturday, May 22, 2021, at the University of St. Thomas on behalf of her brother Charlie, who was shot to death the previous night in Minneapolis. (Courtesy of the University of St. Thomas)

“Our community is shocked and saddened by the news of Charlie’s death,” said Julie Sullivan, university president. “On a day he and his family should have been celebrating his graduation from our School of Engineering, we are devastated by this loss.”

Johnson was remembered at all three undergraduate commencement ceremonies Saturday with his name read and an empty chair placed with a cap and gown. A member of his family accepted his diploma on his behalf.

Elder said seven police homicide detectives have been assigned to this case.

The Hennepin County medical examiner’s office will release the identity of the other victims, along with the nature and cause of death, at a later date.

MAN FOUND SHOT IN CAR

A separate Friday night shooting in Minneapolis left one other man dead.

About 8:40 p.m., police were called to an area near the intersection of 26th Avenue North and Logan Avenue North for a two-vehicle crash.

Officers found a man, believed to be in his 20s, dead in one of the vehicles. He had been shot multiple times.

Another man was injured in that incident and was brought to North Memorial Medical Center with gunshot wounds that weren’t considered life-threatening, police said.

The latest deaths brought the city’s homicide total to 31 for 2021.

“There are too many people in our city today who believe they can act with impunity, consequences be damned,” said Steve Cramer, president of Minneapolis Downtown Council. “Until that changes, and our entire community rises up — family members, elected officials, business, community and faith leaders, prosecutors, judges, all of us — to say enough, we can expect this insanity to continue.”

THREE CHILDREN SHOT IN THREE WEEKS

Between April 30 and May 17, three children were shot in Minneapolis.

Ladavionne Garrett, Jr., 10,  was shot in the head in Minneapolis while in the back seat of his parents’ car April 30 near North 34th and Morgan avenues.

Trinity Ottoson-Smith, 9, was injured by a drive-by shooting May 15 while playing with friends on Ilion Avenue just north of West Broadway Avenue.

Aniya Allen, 6, was eating McDonald’s in the back seat of her family’s car on the 3500 block of Penn Avenue in north Minneapolis May 17 when she was shot. She died from her injuries a day later. She was the granddaughter of prominent peace activist KG Wilson.

Arradondo, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, community and business leaders will announce Sunday a $30,000 reward fund for information on the shootings. A news conference is set for noon outside the Minneapolis City Hall.

“Last night again brought tragic news,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement Saturday. “Again, our collective conscience is shocked.”

“These outcomes are not fated,” he said. “We can stem crime in our city, but it will take all of us coming together with a renewed commitment to preventative work and a shared resolve to stop the gun violence and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Gun-related homicides in midsized and large American cities have skyrocketed during the pandemic, and criminologists believe coronavirus-related socioeconomic loss in many communities is driving that trend. A study by the Council on Criminal Justice tracked a 30% increase in homicides overall in a sample of 34 U.S. cities in 2020 as well as an 8% increase in gun assaults.

Frey and other city leaders have come under pressure to reform the city’s police department and promote racial justice and healing since the death of George Floyd almost a year ago. Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter, and three other officers await trial on aiding and abetting charges. The four also face federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights, and the police department is the focus of federal and state investigations into its practices.

Frey’s proposals include prioritizing funding for more cameras in high-crime areas, and he wants to address disparities in traffic stops by committing to end stops for low-level offenses, such as a busted taillight.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.