Hundreds remember 6-year-old caught in crossfire, urge shooter, witnesses to come forward

Vigil for Aniya Allen, 6, in Minneapolis
Several hundred people gathered on Penn Avenue in north Minneapolis Wednesday for a vigil for Aniya Allen, 6, who died after being struck by gunfire just days before.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

With silver balloons against an overcast sky, hundreds of people gathered in a north Minneapolis neighborhood to remember a 6-year-old, killed after a bullet lodged in her brain, and to demonstrate their outrage against gun violence.

Aniya Allen, riding in her mother’s car, was struck after they were suddenly caught in an exchange of gunfire near 36th and Penn avenues North. The girl died at Hennepin Healthcare two days later.

She was the third child struck by bullets in the city recently.

Aniya was the granddaughter of longtime Minneapolis anti-violence activist K.G. Wilson, who’d been providing regular updates about her condition.

A young girl and a man pose for a photograph
K.G. Wilson (right) and his granddaughter, 6-year-old Aniya Allen.
Courtesy photo

But outside HCMC Wednesday afternoon, Wilson said he learned of his granddaughter’s death secondhand.

“I get in my truck, and I pick up my phone, and it’s just full of messages. So I’m looking like ‘sorry for your loss?’ I’m not even knowing that my granddaughter had passed and didn’t make it.”

Wilson said his emotions changed from sadness to anger. He noted that no one has been arrested in Aniya’s shooting, nor in shootings that left two other children in critical condition, also with bullet wounds to the head.

“I haven’t heard of nobody turning themselves in. So these are the types of people that we have in Minneapolis that nobody wants to talk about,” Wilson said. “I respect what Black Lives Matter does as an organization and a movement, but when is Black lives going to matter to us? When we do something to us?”

Vigil for 6-year-old
The Rev. Jerry McAfee of the New Salem Baptist Church (center, white hat) speaks at vigil Wednesday for Aniya Allen, 6, shot and killed while riding in her mom's car.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

As heavy clouds gathered overhead, several hundred people shared with Wilson that same grief and that same anger during vigil for Aniya on Penn Avenue.

After they shut down the street to traffic, community organizer Michael Smith asked the group to put the same energy into ending the violence and finding Aniya’s killer as they put into protesting the murder of George Floyd.

“I’m tired of working hard behind the scenes for people who don’t value themselves enough to be out here in the good times, the bad times. Let’s start being together consistently,” Smith said.

Richard Zimmerman, who heads the Minneapolis Police Department’s homicide division, appeared at the gathering to offer his condolences. He noted that Wilson has shown up at countless other shootings over the decades to help survivors, and now Wilson is the one in need of support. 

Richard Zimmerman, of MPD, speaks on phone at vigil
Richard Zimmerman, who leads the Minneapolis Police Department's homicide division, attends a vigil on Wednesday for Aniya Allen.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

“We now need the community to step up and let us know who put that bullet in that little girl,” Zimmerman said. Earlier in the day, the homicide chief said a half-dozen detectives are working on the case.

Minneapolis police are also trying to find out who shot Ladavionne Garrett Jr. The 10-year-old was struck while riding with his parents April 30 near 34th and Morgan avenues North — a few blocks from where Aniya was struck.

Trinity Ottoson-Smith, 9, is also hospitalized with a gunshot wound to her head. She was shot Saturday while jumping on a trampoline at a birthday party in the city’s Jordan neighborhood.

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