Michael Fiveland answered the door of his north Minneapolis home on Friday, surprised to see Pastor Harding Smith on his doorstep flanked by a group of activists and reporters.
When Smith, of the Spiritual Church of God in Brooklyn Center, asked Fiveland how he's coping in the wake of the "senseless murder," Fiveland asked the pastor which senseless murder he was referring to.
Shootings are so common in the neighborhood, that the murder of a homeowner inside his home might not strike some as cause for alarm. But for the community activists who went door to door on Thursday, the Jan. 31 death of 69-year-old Thomas Sonnenberg was reason enough to take a walk through the neighborhood to allay fears.
Sonnenberg died after opening his door to 20-year-old Devon Parker. Police say Parker told Sonnenberg he was being chased by people who wanted to hurt him. After he was inside the home, Parker shot Sonnenberg with a gun the older man wore on his hip, police said. Authorities have since charged him with second-degree murder.
Fiveland, who lives four blocks away, received a flier from Smith with information from the Minneapolis Police Department. Smith also give him one of his business cards.
"I want you to give me a call. We're trying to ease the fear in the community," Smith said. "A lot of people have been paralyzed by the recent murder. So we're going door to door, and we want you to feel free to reach out anytime. OK? Thank you. Have a good day."
After Smith headed to the next house, Fiveland stood in his doorway and said he appreciated the visit. But he said things aren't too bad on his block.
"I feel safe; it's OK here," Fiveland said. "Sometimes -- more in the summer -- it's more bad here. But it's pretty nice around here. I haven't had too many problems."
Minneapolis police Lt. Michael Friestleben said this section of the city's north side, largely made up of single-family homes and duplexes, generally is quiet. But he said officers do respond to occasional robberies or gang-related violence. Some of the homes on the block on Fiveland's block have neighborhood watch signs posted in the front yards that say, "We Watch - We Call."
Friestleben said residents should call 911 if they don't feel comfortable answering their doors or if they see a suspicious person.
"If something doesn't seem right, call us and we'll sort it out for you," he tells them. "And if you're doing that you're keeping your neighborhood safe... you should be watching your neighbor's back."
Some are calling Sonnenberg a good Samaritan because he helped a stranger in apparent need.
For some of the clergymen walking the block, answering the door to help isn't always the best move. Pastor William Milligan said when a stranger knocks on his door asking for help he considers one factor right away.
"First of all, is this something where you have to come in my house?" Milligan said he would ask. "Or can I call 911 and you wait outside?"
Milligan said he has opened his door to women who've asked for help escaping abusive partners.
He understands some people feel safer with a gun in the home, but he says there are risks that come along with that.
"If you choose to keep a firearm in the house, that's a personal decision that you make," Milligan said of Sonnenberg. "People have been killed with their firearm as we've noticed and children have been killed with firearms in the house."
When asked if they would open their doors to strangers, or whether Sonnenberg's death made them reluctant to help someone on their death, some Twin Cities area residents say they would be willing to help some people in certain situations.
Carol Henderson, of Minneapolis, said she would rather call 911 for someone than let the person in. However, the senior citizen said there are a few situations in which she would be willing to unlock her door.
"For example, I would help, probably, a woman with a child or child without hesitating at all," she said.
Henderson said she lives in a relatively safe neighborhood but is still careful to avoid potentially dangerous situations.
"All my life, I've been conditioned to know that I am more likely to be a victim of a crime because I'm a woman and smaller than a man and look more vulnerable," she said.
Henderson said she thinks Sonnenberg likely meant well when he let Parker into his home. But she wouldn't have done it.
About half an hour away, 75-year-old Eardley Ham lives alone in a townhouse in suburban Woodbury. He keeps his front storm door locked so he can open his front door to talk to anyone on his doorstep without giving them access to his home.
"I would never open the door until I found out who they were and what they wanted," Ham said. "And if it were a service person, from NSP or whatever, they had to show credentials or they didn't get in the house. And that's just been the way I've been for as long as I can remember."
Parker was sentenced Thursday to serve nearly three years in prison for a third-degree assault from 2011 and a 2012 crime against a transit operator charge. His bail is set at $2 million on the murder charge and a hearing is scheduled for next week.