A five-year-old boy was killed Tuesday morning by someone who fired gunshots into a north Minneapolis home, police say.
Family members say the boy was sleeping on a living room couch when a bullet came through the wall and fatally wounded him. Police say they don't have anyone in custody yet, but are making progress in the investigation.
Robert Tolliver says his nephew, Nizeal Banks, liked to ride his bike, swim and play in the park. Banks was two months away from his sixth birthday. Neighbors on the 4500 block of Bryant Avenue knew and liked the little boy, Tolliver said.
Tolliver said he had just walked through the living room where his nephew was sleeping when shots rang out around 8 a.m.
"I heard at least 10, but then it was three more after that," Tolliver said. "It happened so fast, I didn't get a chance to see anything. But somebody knows something around here."
Police say the young boy was not the only child in the house at the time. Four children were in the house when the bullets struck, Fourth Precinct inspector Mike Martin said. However, Banks was the only person in the house who was injured.
Martin said there is some confusion about the victim's name and that the boy has been called by other names by other family members. The medical examiner will release the boy's correct name, he said.
Tolliver said he and several other family members stay at the house on Bryant Ave. North, but don't live there. He said whoever fired the bullet that killed his nephew may have had a feud with someone who had been in the house on another day.
"Somebody was saying, down here earlier about an incident that happened down there and the boy supposedly came over here. So I'm thinking they probably thought he lived here," Tolliver said. "They came and did this house. Because that's the last place they seen him go to."
Police Chief Tim Dolan said investigators are aware of an ongoing dispute between likely suspects and a person or people in the house. He said the house was the focus of previous police calls. He characterized the house as "busy."
Although saddened by the shooting, neighbor Michael Diamond said he is unsurprised. Diamond said this is the latest in a series of violent incidents that have happened on the block.
"That house right there got shot up about four, five times right there," Diamond said. "That one on the corner. They been shooting at that house right there too, for the past few years."
Diamond said he was not at home during the time of the Tuesday's shooting, but said he was at work and came home as soon as he heard of the incident. Diamond's home is across the street and two houses south of the crime scene, and was not hit by gunfire.
Today's shooting comes exactly six months after the shooting of 3-year-old Terrell Mayes Jr. in the 2600 block of Colfax Avenue. The two houses are only a few miles apart.
Like Banks, Mayes was in his home when he was struck by a bullet. Mayes' mother, Marsha, came to the scene when she heard the news.
"I get a call at eight o'clock in the morning that a five-year-old was shot. I felt like that was my three-year-old getting shot all over again. That's why I'm here," Mayes said. I'm here to give them the resources I got."
Police are still looking for the person who shot and killed Mayes. His mother still hopes that someone with knowledge of the crime will come forward. Now she makes the same appeal to whomever killed Nizeal Banks or knows who did.
"I don't care if somebody was into it with somebody in the house or what. It don't matter, Mayes said. "You're wrong."
Police officials said investigators are making progress due to strong cooperation from the public. Mayor R.T. Rybak said he is angry, and that he hopes others will channel their emotions to help police find the shooter.
"It's an outrage. And yeah, I'm pissed off. I'm plenty pissed off," Rybak said. "But I'm not the parent of a child who's dead. And I think every person in this community needs to feel that pain that a family member feels when their kids die, to be able to take the extreme action that it takes. Do not protect a person who is using a gun to kill a kid."
One way the city is working to reduce gun violence is to get tougher on people who use guns to commit crimes, Rybak said. So far this year, Minneapolis police officers have taken nearly 300 guns off the streets — a 13 percent increase over this time last year. However, shootings and robberies throughout the city have also increased, with robberies up 20 percent over last year, and aggravated assaults, which include shootings and stabbings, up nearly 12 percent.