A shooting Saturday morning in North Minneapolis and a shooting in South Minneapolis are just the latest in a string of gun violence that's been plaguing the city. With no arrests made in either shooting and more than 70% of homicides currently unsolved, residents, parents and community leaders are all asking the same questions; How do we make our communities safe? Safe from police brutality and safe from gun violence? But these are not new questions. The city of Minneapolis has grappled with these questions since becoming an epicenter for a global movement. Gun violence increased starting in 2019 and continued through the pandemic and civil unrest caused by George Floyd’s murder.
According to Children’s Minnesota, nothing kills children more than guns, a fact that hits close to home for Ladavionne, a 12-year-old boy who was shot in the head last year and has been on a journey to recovery ever since.
Ladavionne was the first of three children to get shot in the head in a span of three weeks between late April and mid-May 2021 in Minneapolis. Trinity Ottoson-Smith, 9, and Aniya Allen, 6, died days after they were shot.
Ladavionne was the only one who survived their injuries. He spent six months in the hospital, underwent several brain surgeries and still has a bullet lodged in his head.
While his family remains hopeful he will walk and talk again, they’re becoming less certain the person who shot him will be caught. There has yet to be an arrest in Ladavionne’s case, and violent crime citywide has increased since this time last year.
City of Minneapolis creates Commissioner of Community Safety role
“My job is to essentially make sure that we reduce the crime and violence that we're experiencing, to a place where we feel comfortable,” said Cedric Alexander, the new Commissioner of Community Safety for the City of Minneapolis. “We've had a number of shooting incidents, and some of them have not been solved because we know that we have a significant number of shortages within the police department.”
According to a recent report by the Minneapolis Police Department, only 30% of homicides get solved in the city. Mayor Jacob Frey recently shared “public safety isn’t a priority it’s the priority,” nominating a new chief of police from out of state, Brian O’Hara. He will report to Commissioner Alexander.
“In terms of policing and investigating crime, our resources need to be informed by demand,” O’Hara said at a recent public hearing. “We need to ensure we are doing everything we can to investigate cases for victims, not only so they can have service, but potentially justice.”
During that same public hearing, Minneapolis resident Keith McCarron addressed O’Hara and expressed doubt that holistic change can come under the same leadership that fostered the culture leading to the 2020 uprising.
“I can't even imagine what you're stepping into. We've got a department that despite seeing 25 million people and 550 cities around the world rise up in howling rage against a brutal nine minute lynching of a man, they quickly couldn't go six months without murdering another man nine seconds into a no-knock warrant that was allegedly banned. I will give you the benefit of coming in new. I hope you do well. I don't have high expectations,” says McCarron.
”People want it to be better for our community, and they have every right to put their criticisms out on the table,” said Chanda Smith Baker, Chief Impact officer at the Minneapolis Foundation. She is using her position to lead what’s called the Fund For Safe Communities among other initiatives to move the needle on public safety.
“We know we got to rebuild relationships, and we also know that we got to create new relationships. Once you have a shooting, a drive by for example, where people cannot be easily identifiable, somebody knows something because people talk. Give me a lead. Give me something to work with. Somebody on these streets know who they are,” says Commissioner Alexander.
When it comes to investigating crime not inflicted by the Minneapolis Police Department, like the shooting of Ladavionne last spring, Commissioner Alexander says community partnership is vital.
“I've been to enough funerals to know that no matter what I say we're doing, it's never going to be enough for the people that are faced with those tragedies," says Chanda.
"I appreciate since the George Floyd murder that at least we're talking about safety, at least we're talking about policing in a different way,”