Police say Charez Jones was an innocent victim, shot only steps away from the home of a friend holding a graduation party in north Minneapolis. She died at the scene.
Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan and community members held a news conference Monday afternoon at the very spot where Jones was killed. Flowers lay at the foot of a tree near where Jones collapsed and died. Colorful ribbons and small stuffed animals adorned the tree trunk in honor of Jones's memory. Dolan asked for help.
"We do know there were people who saw this happen, and we need them to step forward," said Dolan. "We need them to talk to their parents, talk to their community leaders, and we'll give them some ideas on people they can call if they don't feel like it's safe to call us. But we need their help."
Dolan says the department has leads and is following them, but there are no suspects in custody. Dolan and investigators provided no details on the investigation or how the shooting happened.
Friends and family say Jones was shot just after leaving the graduation party. Just as Jones, her boyfriend and stepbrother were leaving the party and making a phone call for a ride home, they saw some young people down the block, arguing. After hearing gunshots, Jones ran back to the house, but somebody shot and killed her before she made it.
The home's owner, Darnita Thomas, said four young men had arrived earlier and wanted to get into the party. Thomas said they left after she told them she wouldn't let them in unless they submitted to a search.
Minutes later, Thomas said she heard gunshots.
At the news conference, Jones' father, Guy Jones, pleaded for anyone with information to come forward.
"I challenge everyone out there to save a child," said Jones. "Whether it be one that might accidentally -- such as my own -- be taken casually, while they're enjoying themselves, or whether it may be someone who wants to pick up a gun. Just save a child. I love you Minnesota. And, Charez, we love you."
A family friend says Charez just got word she'd been accepted for a summer job at a neighborhood McDonald's restaurant. Family and friends say she was an aspiring cosmetologist. Charez was just about to finish her freshman year at Edison High School.
Community members say they are outraged by the violence that took the life of an innocent girl.
"To the men of our community, it's time to uproot this problem. That's what needs to go across the airwaves," said activist Spike Moss.
Moss called on residents to step up and move the problem of violence out of the community.
"Get serious with those that know stuff and don't tell. Get serious with those that keep putting their hands on guns. Get serious with those who keep selling poison in our neighborhood. Uproot this problem!" Moss urged.
Jones' killing brings the number of homicides in Minneapolis so far this year to 25. Twenty of those killings have taken place in the 4th Precinct, which covers north Minneapolis.
V.J. Smith is with Mad Dads, a group that works with parents and kids to help keep them away from drugs and violence. He says he believes part of the problem with community violence includes bad parenting, the scourge of the drug trade, and harmful messages from the media.
"They're consuming all those negative things. We can arrest them when they get old enough, true enough," said Smith. "But if we can get to them when they're 6, 7, and 8, and start teaching them a more positive way to live, and a better quality of life, then we can do better."
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak asked that city residents stand by the family and community who lost a girl who died way too young. He said there is an epidemic of violence -- of too many guns being used by young people against young people.
"We in no way can bring back a young life that was lost. But we have to make clear that we have a standard in this community that does not tolerate young people with guns killing young people," said Rybak.
Police say say it's just a matter of time before they solve the case. They say they're certain there are people out there who saw what happened, and know who shot Charez Jones.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)