Assciated France Press (AP) 8/4/2006
Fear, Concern Follow Minneapolis Killings
By PATRICK CONDON
MINNEAPOLIS -- Two random killings of innocent bystanders in the last month, both in trendy parts of town, are rattling this city’s self-image as a nice place to live.
"My parents called and were saying, ’You should get another job, you should quit,’" said Brent Campbell, a college student who works as a valet at the Bellanotte restaurant, across the street from where a suburban visitor was killed March 31.
The shooting deaths have sparked a war of words over police funding between Minnesota’s Republican governor and liberal city leaders. Irritated black leaders say it’s taken the slayings of two white men in nice parts of the city for the public and politicians to notice the city’s growing crime problems.
Not far from anyone’s mind is a yearlong rash of murders 10 years ago that saw the city dubbed "Murderapolis." Things aren’t that bad this time, but the murders and a skyrocketing robbery rate have again forced Minneapolis to question its own safety.
"It’s the type of place where you can easily be in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Rich Berry, a 35-year-old resident visiting downtown Thursday night. "I feel safe, but I got my eyes and ears open."
The first homicide happened March 18 in Uptown, a popular neighborhood of restaurants, bars and shops. Two robbers fatally shot a 25-year-old West Virginia man after stealing his mother’s purse. Police say the victim did not try to stop the robbers and gave them no reason to shoot.
Less than two weeks later, a 31-year-old man was barhopping with friends downtown when they stumbled into what police say was a fight between several men. One of those men started firing a gun into a crowd, striking the victim.
Police have made arrests in both cases, and increased their presence downtown and in Uptown, but the finger-pointing has continued.
After the second shooting, GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty criticized city leaders, saying they’re slighting public safety to spend on unnecessary social programs. Democratic Mayor R.T. Rybak and state legislators from Minneapolis charged that Pawlenty-backed cuts to local government aid forced the city to trim its police force.
The governor and mayor met Friday and came up with $4 million to put as many as 15 more officers on downtown streets by summer, freeing up the police force to focus on high-crime areas including north Minneapolis.
Meanwhile, black leaders are angry that the recent slayings have stirred up so much concern when murders and other violent crimes are a fact of life on the city’s north side, where many more black residents live.
"People are infuriated," said Randy Staten, president of the state’s Coalition of Black Churches and a north-side resident. "They are insulted."