MINNEAPOLIS — A hail of bullets in a part of downtown that attracts large crowds after dark. It's happened before, but this incident served as a wakeup call to the city leaders and those striving to bring people back into the heart of Minneapolis.
Early Saturday morning, ten people shot, two fatally, including innocent bystander Charlie Johnson on the eve of his graduation from the University of St. Thomas. It began with what police reported as a shootout between two men who had been in a verbal altercation in a parking lot outside a bar.
"It was catalytic. It just brought people together to say 'enough is enough,'" Steve Cramer, who heads the Downtown Minneapolis Council, told KARE
"We must figure out a way to send a different message, that if you behave in this way, if you jeopardize other people, if you put them in danger, if you commit crimes that are that serious, you will be held accountable."
Downtown Minneapolis is relatively calm during the daylight hours, even more so during the pandemic when so many people worked from home. But violence and chaos, especially during the bar closing hours on hot summer weekends, is a recurring issue that's gone on for years.
And the problem is expected to intensify as life increasingly returns to normal in downtown bars and clubs throughout the summer. Many see a larger law enforcement presence on the streets as the best short-term answer.
But it's clear that will be difficult for the Minneapolis Police Department to pull off because so many officers are still out on medical leave related to the riots of 2020.
"They’ve gone from approximately 840 officers to less than 600. We are a city of 400,000 people and we have less than 600 officers," Joe Tamburino, an attorney who offices and lives in downtown Minneapolis told KARE.
"It's unacceptable and it's failed leadership. All of the city's leaders have failed in this regard."
Mayor Jacob Frey released a statement Sunday, which read in part:
"These outcomes are not fated. We can stem crime in our city, but it will take all of us coming together with a renewed commitment to preventative work and a shared resolve to stop the gun violence and bring the perpetrators to justice."
Saturday's shootout came against the backdrop of a huge citywide uptick in gun violence, with three children among the innocent bystanders. One of them, a six-year-old girl died. Two are still hospitalized.
Tamburino, who is active in the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association and Downtown Improvement District, says he's disheartened to hear that officers have been forced to pull back from some of the routine traffic stops that in the past had led to confiscation of illegal firearms.
"These traffic stops are investigative tools sometimes for individuals who shouldn't have firearms."
He noted that the suspect in custody for Saturday's shooting -- a 23-year-old Bloomington man -- has a previous record of illegal firearms possession and fleeing police.
The shooting took place in a parking lot adjacent to the Monarch Minneapolis nightclub, and the bar's red glowing sign could be seen in much of the video captured by photographers Saturday.
Monday, a spokesperson for Monarch said the suspect, and the other man involved in the gun battle, had not been customers of the club that night. That was based on what club managers saw on surveillance video and heard from staff and patrons.