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Girl's shooting prompts calls for an end to North Minneapolis violence

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Time to stop the violence
Kirkland Johnson, Anthony Cain Jr. and Charles Dixon run the Twin Cities Resource Employment Action Center, a non-profit job readiness and social service organization. They say it's time to stop the kind of violence that landed an innocent girl in critical condition.
MPR Photo/Jessica Mador

The twelve-year-old was shot in the head at around midnight as she left a neighbor's party. Police have not yet released the name of the girl, but residents familiar with her say they think she went by the nickname Little Star. 

One woman, who was afraid to give her name, said she remembers seeing the girl playing outside after school. She said she was getting ready for bed when she heard the gunshot. 

"And then I ran down there to see her and she wasn't moving or anything, like she was asleep," she said.

She said the problem of violence goes much deeper then the occasional shooting like the one that landed the twelve-year-old girl in the hospital.

"It's tragic anytime a kid dies, or anybody, but it seems like it's so easy for kids to get guns and they don't think about tomorrow or a week from now, a year from now," she said, adding they don't think about the future because they can't imagine having one.

That sense of hopelessness was on the agenda at the annual Southside Community Festival at Richard Green Park in Minneapolis. The festival was dedicated in part to the girl.

"We are praying, we pray with the family. She is only twelve years old and the important part  is that there is so much pain in our community and we have to teach our adults and our families and our children how to channel this energy in another way," said V.J. Smith, president of the Minneapolis chapter of Mad Dads, a national organization dedicated to helping at-risk youth. 

V.J. Smith
V.J. Smith is the president of the Minneapolis chapter of Mad Dads, a national organization targeted at helping at-risk youth.
MPR Photo/Jessica Mador

Smith said it's time for people to take a stand on violence and drugs and he offers some very practical advice on how to do that. 

"I suggest that you get out and when you see something in your neighborhood that is not right that you say something about it," said Smith. "Stop having that 'stop snitching' attitude and start organizing, mobilizing and reaching out to some of these hard to reach kids and making a difference in their lives."

He says getting more adults involved in kids' lives will help them avoid gangs and drugs over the long run. 

Kirkland Johnson directs the Young Dads program at the Twin Cities Employment Action Center. The program aims to connect young fathers with services like job training and help with housing and business development. Johnson said feeling connected to mainstream society is the key to keeping young people off the streets and away from gun violence. 

"When you have a stable job, when you have a house or a place that you're responsible for, when you are connected with your kids on a consistent basis, you have more to lose if you try to do something that is silly as far as committing crimes or something that is against the law," Johnson said. "So we feel that is something that can keep communities more safe."

The Employment Action Center plans to open another office in North Minneapolis within the next two months. Johnson said he hopes the new location will help him target more at-risk youth living near the location of Friday's shooting. 

Minneapolis police officials say they have descriptions of two possible suspects. They say the homicide unit is continuing its investigation but are releasing no further information.