Gunfire and fireworks launched as weapons overnight Monday created chaos and peril in Minneapolis, including a Mississippi River park where seven people were wounded during a massive July 4th holiday gathering.
The mayhem not only proved dangerous to those in its midst, but also put at risk people who live near Boom Island Park, a section of northeast Minneapolis near Interstate 35W and a densely populated area of downtown.
City and police administration first acknowledged the violence at a news conference late Tuesday afternoon, when Mayor Jacob Frey said:
“This is conduct that should not be acceptable in any city. The kind of violence, the recklessness — and in some cases idiot behavior — that we saw shouldn’t be tolerated. And let me be clear, it will not be tolerated.”
He said police and city leaders cannot fight this type of crime alone.
“If you’re the parents of children that were out last night, you need to know where they are,” Frey said. “If you have friends that were involved in some of this horrible conduct, you need to be setting them straight.”
Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman said, “This was an extremely challenging situation with a very large and hostile crowd [downtown]. People were shooting commercial-grade fireworks at first responders.”
She said the violence took place as “we are meant to remember and celebrate the truly revolutionary ideal that every person has the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, [but] there were those in our community who chose to engage in destructive, damaging and dangerous behavior that deprived others of those very rights.”
From 9 p.m. Monday to 4 a.m., Tuesday in what Frey called “a substantial case of whack-a-mole,” more than 1,300 calls were made to 911 and more than 80 officers were on duty.
Gunfire erupted at Boom Island Park at 10:20 p.m. during a July 4th gathering that one witness said drew up to 1,000 people. It was at least the city’s fourth mass shooting in the past three years.
Park Board spokeswoman Robin Smothers said the victims were hospitalized and said several were in serious condition.
Park police said three 18-year-olds suffered a “major injury.” A 17-year-old and a 22-year-old also were hospitalized.
Huffman said the Police Department plans to work with park police to “look at ways to deny access to these areas for folks to gather afterhours. Prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Minneapolis had at least 13 shootings and a stabbing from Monday afternoon to early Tuesday. Besides the Boom Island Park casualties, two men were shot on the north side, two women were injured on 19th and Nicollet and a man was seriously injured by gunfire in Gold Medal Park.
Dan Zeller, whose home overlooks Boom Island Park, said a bullet came through the main living area, ricocheted off the kitchen island and “lodged in the back of our couch.”
He said he and others were elsewhere in the house at the time.
Zeller said that about 30 minutes before the shooting he saw a “pretty chaotic scene of people coming in and out of the park.”
“People were shooting fireworks at each other and also normally in the sky,” he said. “People just kind of show up, and it becomes a spectacle.”
He estimated the crowd at up to 1,000 people at one point, though most had before the gunfire. Zeller said he reviewed his home surveillance video and counted “pretty close to 100 shots.”
In the spring of 2021, two men opened fire outside the Monarch nightclub downtown around bar closing time, killing two people and injuring eight others. The city logged two mass shootings in June 2020: the first during a brawl in a north Minneapolis bar that escalated into gunfire that hit seven people. Later that month, gunmen wounded 11 in a torrent of bullets on a bustling stretch of Uptown.
Frey said Tuesday that guns are coming into the city by the “trunkful,” and they are a “far too common denominator.”
” We need more common sense gun reform,” he said.
During the disruption downtown, a police officer was injured, and a woman was jailed in connection with the disturbance near 2nd Street and Portland avenues, where there are numerous residential buildings, according to a police report. Similar groups gathered in the Mill District near the Stone Arch Bridge.
Police dispersed the crowd and about 2:30 a.m. arrested and jailed a 23-year-old Savage woman on suspicion of assaulting an officer and obstructing police. The Star Tribune generally does not identify suspects before they are charged.
Police said the officer suffered an “apparent minor injury.”
“Parties who had been on-site for hours [were] shooting fireworks at pedestrians, apartments, vehicles and businesses,” according to the police report. “There had also been reports of gunfire and violent crimes being committed.”
The report had no further details.
“It seemed like 2nd Street looking toward Portland was ground zero,” said Star Tribune news editor Paul Klauda, who lives near the center the chaos. He estimated it began around 10:30 p.m.
There were “kids running around, driving around, shooting fireworks toward cars, buildings, people,” Klauda said, “cars racing down 2nd Street in either direction, turning around, kids hanging out of them, firing fireworks.
“The booms echoed off the buildings, giving it a surreal vibe. At times, kids would … get in and out of cars, sometimes appearing to be re-arming themselves with fireworks. One of the first times cops showed up — without much presence, so it did little to alter the night — someone sent a firework at the squad car.”
Police arrived on three occasions, but “things started back up after they left” the first two times, he said.
A similar scene played out overnight about 3 miles to the northeast, where people aimed fireworks at buildings as street racers did doughnuts and whirled past spectators, said a nearby resident.
Karyn Entzion said people in the crowd of about 150 shot fireworks at her as she recorded video from her second-floor balcony of cars spinning wildly, squealing their tires.
“They were shooting them intentionally onto the roof of my building,” said Entzion, who lives in the 700 block of NE. Stinson Boulevard. “I had to run. And these weren’t small fireworks. They were huge rocket-like launcher fireworks.”
She said fireworks were being shot from the rooftops of at least two commercial buildings and a three-story parking ramp.
Entzion said her condo neighborhood has been plagued by street racing and vehicles doing doughnuts for nearly a year.
“Yes, it’s concerning about damage to property,” she said. “But the way in which they are driving, they have become increasingly bold. Someone is going to get seriously injured. People are standing very close to the cars, and people are hanging out of the cars.”
In Uptown late Monday, where street racing and “burnouts” have become all too common, a group of people set off ground sparklers and other fireworks on busy S. Hennepin Avenue near 27th Street, within a few feet of passing motorists and pedestrians.
“The chaos was unacceptable,” said Steve Cramer, president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council. “Restoring order is the first responsibility, and the resources just weren’t there last night. It reflects our challenge in a city with a depleted police department.”
Cramer, in his role of representing downtown’s business interests, has long advocated for bolstering police staffing in Minneapolis. He said recent events offer further proof that city leaders must be able to quickly call upon other agencies — such as the State Patrol and Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office — to help quell violence.
If dangerous behavior is left unchecked, Cramer said, it will continue to erode the sense of safety of downtown residents and guests. “It’s certainly not the image we want to portray to our region,” he said.
Staff writers Liz Sawyer and Kelly Smith contributed to this report.