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Charges: Man gunning for gang rival shot, killed Mpls. grandmother

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Vigil for Birdell Beeks.
A vigil hosted by Mad Dads was held in honor of Birdell Beeks at the intersection 21st and Penn avenues in Minneapolis on May 31, 2016, near where she was shot while sitting in her van.
Brandt Williams | MPR News 2016

Hennepin County prosecutors Tuesday charged a Minneapolis man with second-degree murder in the May 26 shooting death of Birdell Beeks, a grandmother innocently sitting in her minivan with her granddaughter.

Joshua Chiazor Ezeka, 20, sprayed gunfire on a north Minneapolis street trying to shoot a gang rival but hit Beeks' vehicle at the intersection of 21st and Penn Avenues north, according to the charges.

Beeks, 58, was well-known in the neighborhood and not the intended victim. She died from her wounds at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. Her death provoked outrage and a $10,000 award was offered for information about who killed her.

Sa’Lesha Beeks, daughter of Birdell Beeks, embraces Sgt. Chris Thomsen.
Sa'Lesha Beeks, daughter of Birdell Beeks, embraces Police Sgt. Chris Thomsen at a news conference where they announced they made an arrest in the shooting death of Birdell Beeks on Monday.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

"This particular death hit our community hard," Mayor Betsy Hodges said Monday at a news conference announcing the arrest.

Prosecutors say Ezeka was acting on a tip that an individual, who is known to associate with "the highs" gang, approached the area in a car. Shortly after, he "ran toward the rival gang member's car and started shooting multiple times. He was approximately 30 yards from the car when he fired his gun. Some bullets struck the rival gang member's car and others struck Beeks' car," the Hennepin County Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Ezeka later fled from the area in a car with other individuals, the office added. Ezeka is in custody and is expected to make his first court appearance Tuesday.

Forensic scientists processed the scene "and are continuing their search for evidence," the prosecutor's office said, adding that "many witnesses have expressed fear of retaliation."