Minneapolis residents call for National Guard, State Patrol help with city violence

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On the north side of Minneapolis, neighbors describe the violence as “unbearable.” There have been 33 homicides in the Fourth Precinct so far this year, according to city data. There were 24 homicides in that precinct in 2020 and 13 homicides in 2019.

“There’s gunshots a lot — it’s weekly, if not daily and I’ve heard them during the daylight,” said Buzzy Bohn, who’s lived in the Folwell neighborhood for 42 years. “There’s been a noticeable uptick in crime this summer and I lived here through ‘Murderapolis.’”

She’s called north Minneapolis home for most of her life. Earlier this summer, she said a 3-year-old child was shot just about a block from her house.

“I saw the squads fly by my house,” Bohn described. “It’s like nobody is safe. People are being shot, people are being carjacked.”

The violence is affecting residents from the Folwell neighborhood to the Victory neighborhood.

“I heard pop, pop, pop and it was so close,” said Becka Thompson, describing the shots fired outside of her home. “I raise my child in this house. All of these kids that get shot, I think of him and I think of my nieces and nephews.”

Thompson has lived in North Minneapolis since the ’90s, moving into her Victory home 11 years ago.

“It’s a different world when you’ve lived somewhere for over a decade and the sunsets and you think, ‘Oh shoot, I can’t take this exit off 94, I can’t take that one, I can’t take that one, I don’t trust any of them to get home safe,’” she said. “Children are getting shot in the streets, there’s gunfire in front of schools, there’s semiautomatics being used at a barbershop – again during daylight.”

Bohn and Thompson, who is also a Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board candidate, are among the more than two dozen residents who signed a letter to Gov. Tim Walz, asking him to send the Minnesota State Patrol or Minnesota National Guard to the area to help Minneapolis police.

They describe north Minneapolis as a “warzone” and criticize the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey for their response. The residents wrote: “They are either unwilling or unable to save us.”

Thompson told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, “I feel like we were just patiently waiting for someone to care and nobody ever did.”

Frey responded to the letter in a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS:

“Chief Arradondo and I are working to get the resources and police officers necessary for both improving response times and strengthening our city’s overall community safety system. That work includes ongoing mutual aid and coordination with local and state law enforcement partners. My staff, the Office of Violence Prevention, and MPD have also been in regular contact with community partners like the Northsiders leading the 21 Days of Peace initiative to immediately curb gun violence and improve safety.”

While Minneapolis police didn’t comment on the letter, a spokesperson explained the department evaluates staffing every day. If there is higher crime in one area than another, officers will be adjusted to address that need. During higher-crime times, such as weekends, precincts also bring in additional officers on overtime to increase MPD’s presence.

The department urges the community to reach out to CrimeStoppers if they have any information that could help an investigation. Tips provided to the service remain anonymous.

Councilmember Phillipe Cunningham, who represents Ward 4, said he’s been having discussions with Frey about how to address the violence.

“Where can we think creatively?” Cunningham asked. “We truly cannot wait until we fill backfill the officers that we’ve lost. It takes 11 months for us to be able to get [those] officers on the streets so how are we thinking creatively and those resources that are brought in, how are we making sure that those are actually going to solve the issues? […] The most effective strategies are the ones that actually identify the folks who are most at risk of being either victims, or perpetrators of this violence, and then inundating them with resources.

He believes that includes creating additional after-school activities for children, connecting at-risk individuals with stable housing, and creating jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for city residents.

“We have to actually be getting the right kinds of resources to solve the issues and the National Guard is not that resource that’s going to get us there,” Cunningham said. “My call to the governor is, if you’re going to be sending anything to Minneapolis, let it be any resource you can get your hands on.”

Over the summer, Cunningham also called on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to focus on disrupting the flow of guns being brought into the city. He reiterated on Thursday that reducing the number of guns on the streets needs to be a priority.

“We have the information, we have the data, and surveillance and the intel that tells us that this issue is guns,” he said. “The law enforcement resources that get brought into the city, need to be focused on disrupting the gun trafficking […] focusing on who is bringing the guns into the city, and how to make them stop and open accountable for doing so.”

The neighbors who drafted the letter to Walz acknowledge bringing in State Patrol or the National Guard is not a long-term solution.

“But right now we need something to stop the bleeding,” Bohn said. “It’s going to take everybody being on board and it’s going to take help from places other than the city of Minneapolis and I think the governor could help here.”

She said she doesn’t envision National Guard troops standing on each street corner but rather assisting with EMS or other calls to help free up officers.

Walz wasn’t available for an interview. A spokesperson shared a statement in response to the letter, saying, “The Governor shares their urgency to improve public safety and meets with community leaders in North Minneapolis on this issue. However, the State Patrol and Minnesota National Guard are not a substitute for a qualified local police department. This summer, the Governor took executive action to direct $15 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds toward community violence prevention and is dedicated to working to prevent gun violence by ensuring guns don’t fall into the wrong hands.”

His office says violence prevention funding grants are now open.

Minister JaNae Bates, with Yes 4 Minneapolis, shared this statement:

“Every single person in Minneapolis deserves to feel safe in community. Yet, the current model of armed police-only isn’t working. Police and community violence is on the rise, 9-1-1 response times differ based on neighborhoods, and we still have not addressed the root causes of crime and violence, like poverty and inequitable access to good schools. Living in a communities occupied indefinitely by armed guards and armed police is certainly not going to bring the safe community or future that residents are needing and have been asking for. This is especially true of Black and brown people who know the feeling of being both over policed and under protected for decades. There is a better way. It’s time to establish a model of public safety that is more humane, providing the right resources at the right time so that police are responsive and accountable to come when needed. The writers’ correct conclusion is to ask for “all available resources”, but, unfortunately, they only named more people with guns. Most residents know that fully resourced communities are safe communities and that includes having ample access to other qualified professionals who are trained in mental health issues and crisis de-escalation, prevention and treats all members of the community equally, regardless of race or class. That’s why residents across the city, including in North Mineapolis, fought to get Question 2 on the ballot. They know – with citywide support – that kind of expanded public safety, with both police response and qualified professionals and resources, is possible.”