MINNEAPOLIS -- Police appealed to the public for tips Thursday about an attack at a corner market that left three Somali businessmen dead, and they backed away from describing it as an attempted robbery gone bad.
"The people in any part of this city should not only have great sympathy for the family of the victims but be outraged and stirred to actions that these people will be brought to justice," Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said.
Investigators were searching for two people who, police said, entered Seward Market and Halal Meats Wednesday night and killed three adult men.
Police Chief Tim Dolan is calling the shooters "cold-blooded killers" and warns they are very dangerous. At a Thursday morning news conference, Dolan urged anyone with information about Wednesday night's killings at Seward Market and Halal Meats to come forward.
Police say they don't know the motive behind the killings. The initial call came in as a robbery, but on Thursday authorities backed away from saying it was an attempted robbery. Instead, they say there are looking at several scenarios.
"We have some suspected motives but we won't get into the details on that, we are just not sure," Dolan said.
Dolan says there are a large number of security cameras in the store, and that surveillance video is excellent. He also says there were a number of witnesses to the crime, and that they are cooperating.
The three victims, all adult men, were members of the city's large community of Somali immigrants. Dolan says the killers are also believed to be Somali.
The triple homicide happend around 7:45 p.m. Wednesday night at Seward Market & Halal Meat located near 24th and Franklin Avenues.
The store is in an area south of downtown with a significant population of Somali immigrants. Although police have not confirmed the identities of the victims, leaders in the local Somali community say they are all Somali men who worked in the store, including its owner. The men are described by a local Somali spokesman as decent members of the community who had nothing to do with gangs.
"We've never seen in Minneapolis that three Somali young guys were shot and killed at the same time on the same spot," Somali spokesman Omar Jamal said. "So there is an investiagation going now. And we're asking the community to tell the police if they saw anything. Therefore those guys will be brought to justice."
Police Sgt. William Palmer said no suspects are in custody for the homicides.
Seward Market and Halal Meat, is in the city's Seward neighborhood, a middle-class area south of downtown with a significant population of Somali immigrants. Sgt. Palmer decribes the area as "a good neighborhood."
Rybak said Thursday, "I think it's a specific tragedy to a community that has come here to escape violence now has lost three members to violence."
Rybak and Dolan had planned to toute the decline of crime in the city at a news conference Thursday.
Wednesday's deaths brought the number of homicides in Minneapolis to four, just six days into the new year. The first homicide of 2010 happened late Saturday when Dontae Johnson, 31, of Champlin, was shot and found lying in the street. There have been no arrests in that case.
Minnesota has the largest population of Somali immigrants of any U.S. state. Omar Jamal, an advocate for the Somali community in Minnesota, said its members are "in a state of shock and disbelief."
"Most of the shootings in the community involve gangs and drugs. But these were Somali businessmen. They were decent members of the community," Jamal said.
The triple slayings come after a year in which homicides fell sharply in Minneapolis, as they did in many other cities. The city had 19 homicides in 2009, the lowest number in more than two decades and far below the city's high of 97 in 1995.
City officials are asking anyone who witnessed the incident to come forward with information. Calls are being taken by Minneapolis Sgt Kjos at 612-673-3786.
(Copyright 2010 by KARE and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)