Following Armatage crime, police promise swift public alerts

Armatage residents packed a neighborhood meeting in mid-April, pressing the 5th Precinct Inspector on why they weren’t quickly alerted to violent robberies in the neighborhood.

Three suspects ages 13, 16 and 18 have been arrested and charged in a series of robberies and life-threatening injuries spanning from March 16-March 30 in Edina and Minneapolis.

“What happened was reprehensible,” said Adam Tomczik, an assistant Hennepin County Attorney who is prosecuting the case. “However it is exceedingly rare.”

The Armatage Neighborhood Association (ANA) alerted residents of the March 28 incident in early April, following the arrests.

5th Precinct Insp. Todd Loining said he was on vacation during the robbery spree, and left a lieutenant in charge in his absence. Upon his return, Loining said he directed staff to alert the community. In an email to the Southwest Journal, Crime Prevention Specialist Jennifer Waisanen said crime alerts for the March 28 Armatage incident didn’t go out earlier because the suspects were apprehended quickly.

At the community meeting, residents repeatedly asked about neighborhood communication.

“If people aren’t notified about crime, crime will continue,” said ANA member Denis Houle.

“There was a little delay in that, and we’ve had follow-up conversations about that,” Loining said. “I do apologize for that. … We owe it to the community to get the information out timely.”

The following incident details were provided by the Hennepin County Attorney’s office:

— Shortly before midnight on March 16, two of the suspects followed a man off the bus at 56th & Xerxes in Edina. The suspects allegedly beat him, stabbed him in the neck and took his satchel. The victim managed to walk to his mother’s home and she drove him to the hospital.

— The night of March 28, police said suspects trailed a man from Downtown Minneapolis and followed him off the bus at 58th & Xerxes. The Attorney’s office said the suspects ran up to the victim and tripped him, demanding money. They tackled him at Vincent Avenue, where they punched him, kicked him in the face, stabbed his ribs and took his backpack. When police arrived at the victim’s home, he was bleeding and starting to have trouble breathing.

“Paramedics rushed him to Hennepin County Medical Center where doctors discovered his right lung had been punctured and they told the victim he could have died had he delayed any longer,” stated a release from the Attorney’s Office.

— On the early evening of March 30, the suspects confronted three juveniles in the Southdale Mall parking lot. The suspects threatened to use a baton to break legs if they didn’t turn over belongings including a backpack, phones and a wallet. Police spotted the suspects as they fled, and arrested them at Xerxes Avenue.

The juveniles were charged with numerous counts of robbery and aggravated assault, and the 18-year-old was charged with three counts of first-degree robbery. Waisanen told the Armatage neighborhood that a search warrant at one of the suspect’s addresses at the 5800 block of Washburn turned up a large amount of heroin and cash.

Loining said the robberies were relatively unusual in the neighborhood.

“Farther north up to Lake Street we see a higher volume of these types of crimes,” Loining said, though he said a stabbing incident is rare.

Police recently notified the public of a robbery in Kingfield on April 11 at 10:07 a.m. Police said an elderly female and her husband were walking at 36th & Garfield when a lone suspect knocked the woman down and unsuccessfully tried to take her purse.

In the 5th Precinct, robberies are down 37 percent year-to-date compared to last year, a decrease of 63 incidents to 40.

Loining said one of the biggest issues police currently see are robberies of people targeted because they are talking on cell phones. He also urged people to report curfew violations.

Armatage residents raised concerns about youth throwing rocks, or wandering alleys and looking in people’s yards. Loining stressed that if anything doesn’t look right, call 911.

“Little things do happen a lot,” said resident Cynthia Skye. “If you can stop it at a small level, it is less likely to escalate.”

Council Member Linea Palmisano (13th Ward) said the city has money in the budget to hire more police officers. She noted her service on the Youth Coordinating Board to help prevent juveniles from committing crimes. 

ANA Board President Betsen Philip said several blocks in the neighborhood still need block leaders. Block leaders receive immediate notification from police about incidents that occur close to their homes, and they help serve as a liaison between police and neighbors. To volunteer, contact Waisanen at jennifer.waisanen@minneapolismn.gov.