Minneapolis shootings: Violence, then vengeance, then vigils

Prayers for gun violence victims
Pastor Harding Smith joined gun-control advocate Heather Martens and other activists to pray at the corner of Franklin and Chicago Avenues in south Minneapolis Monday evening.
Brandt Williams | MPR News

Monday night brought an all-too-familiar scene for Pastor Harding Smith and several other members of the community group Minnesota Acts Now.

They stood on a Minneapolis corner, holding vigil. This time, it was Chicago and Franklin avenues. This time, it was to remember Abdirahman Ahmed Jined and another man, shot and killed over the weekend not far from where the group stood.

It was hot, humid. The pastor prayed: "Father God we come before you, Lord Jesus, to bring peace in our cities."

Smith and his group have stood on other corners, in other parts of the city, holding other vigils for other victims of gun violence.

It's been a busy summer.

Three men died and at least three others were wounded by gunfire in the city over the weekend. That makes 29 homicides in Minneapolis so far this year. Last year at this time, the total was 19.

Smith said he sees familiar factors in this year's spike in shootings. Too many people feel they have no other choice but to solve their disputes with violence, he said. And that begins a cycle: Violence, vengeance, more violence.

And then the vigils. "If you are out there, you have lost a loved one due to gun violence, please, we are begging you, don't take the law into your own hands," he prayed Monday night. "Please let the police do their work. Let the community do their work. And believe in God that justice will be done."

Hours before Smith's vigil, and across town, police say a third man was killed on the city's north side. The man's body was found in the street early Monday morning near the intersection of 34th and Morgan avenues, a victim of another dispute turned deadly. A second person at the scene was injured.

In Dinkytown and the Warehouse District early Saturday, two others were shot and injured. Police say an officer shot an armed suspect in the Warehouse District incident.

This weekend's shootings come as the Minneapolis Police Department has tried to tamp down the already rising violence in the city. Earlier this month, police responded to a pair of killings on the city's north side by adding eight more officers to the neighborhood.

Police union president Lt. Bob Kroll said more officers on the street will make the city safer, but added that he thinks temporary redeployments — moving officers from one precinct to another for a short amount of time — are not the answer.

"By doing that," he said, "you're robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Kroll said there aren't enough officers on the street right now to properly respond to the level of crime Minneapolis has seen so far. He said the police force is well short of the 860 sworn officers the city is authorized to hire — a number he thinks is already too low.

"Our department should have upwards of 900," Kroll said. "In my career, I've seen it go from as low as 760 to as high as 940."

Police officials said the department has experienced a few more retirements this year than they had expected. Another 30 or more officers are scheduled to hit the streets by the end of this year. And Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said the city is hiring as quickly as it can. But it's about strategy as much as numbers, Hodges said.

"It's not how many of them there are, it's what are they doing," she said. "And they are having conversations. They are doing personal follow-ups when incidents happen, or we hear shots fired. They're finding out from people what their experience is — getting as much information as they can."

Hodges said police and city leaders are doing everything they can to reduce and prevent future outbursts of violence. And despite the latest uptick, she said, Minneapolis is still a safe city.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.