Police continue to investigate two October shootings in the Kingfield and Lyndale neighborhoods, while neighbors rally for justice and peace.
“We are all together in this to stop these senseless killings,” said Jibril Afyare, president of the Somali Citizens League and head of advocacy for the Global Somali Diaspora.
Details of the shootings remain sparse while the investigations continue. Police responded to a report of shots fired on Sunday, Oct. 18 at 10 p.m. and arrived at the 3700 block of 1st Avenue South to find Julio Mozo-Cuate lying in the alley behind his residence, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. The suspect or suspects had fled, police said. Mozo-Cuate, age 42, was taken to the hospital and died Monday morning.
As police prepared to return to 1st Avenue on Oct. 19 to talk to neighbors, they were alerted to a second shooting at 4:45 p.m. in front of 3012 Pleasant Ave. S. Officers arrived to find Abdi Liban, age 61, dead in the street from a gunshot wound to the head.
“This is a very active investigation,” said police spokesman John Elder. “Because these are active investigations we don’t release much at all. … We’re still trying to figure out what happened and vet out the information that we’ve received.”
Afyare said that even after a week, it’s hard to believe that Liban is gone. Liban worked as a security guard at Horn Towers at 31st & Blaisdell.
“He was a decent man,” Afyare said. “He was someone who was always helpful to anybody, especially the elderly, where he worked.”
Afyare said community members have seen other younger Somali men die in gunfire.
“But this guy was a security officer, like a police officer. He was a family man, a religious man. So it’s really shocking,” he said. “Within the community … this is really a wakeup call.”
He said people who routinely walk between Karmel Mall and their homes are afraid.
“People are scared, people are concerned, people are really frustrated,” he said.
Somali community members gathered for a rally after Friday prayers on Oct. 30. At the protest, about 30-40 people gathered a few feet from where Liban was killed at Lake & Pleasant. They chanted the words “justice” and “Salaam” (which translates peace). A few cars honked while passing on Lake Street. Somali elders, young men, women and children carried signs that said: “Justice delayed is justice denied” and “The killings must stop.” Some of the signs featured Liban’s picture. The protesters said Liban was simply walking to work, simply picking up coffee. Somebody knows who committed the crime, they said.
Farhio Khalif, founder of Voice of East African Women Inc., said police and city officials must do more than talk. She said a new safety and crime prevention committee will start meeting monthly at the Sabathani Community Center.
5th Precinct Inspector Todd Loining said patrols are focusing on Lake Street and the area business district, as well as Karmel Mall and Horn Towers.
At the rally, Loining stressed “how committed we are to work with you folks to resolve this crime.”
“I want to assure you that we’re working hard on this,” he said. “We treat all Americans equally and fairly, and I want you to know that.”
Council Member Elizabeth Glidden said too many unsolved crimes are impacting Somali community members.
Of five homicides in the 5th Precinct in 2015, three are unsolved. Last May, Abdiaziz Salah Farah, age 27, died of multiple gunshot wounds in a shooting on Pillsbury north of Lake Street. Community members pressed for progress in that case a few months ago in a meeting with police, seeking reassurance that police were devoting time and resources to the investigation.
Glidden said police are devoting more than the usual resources to the Lake & Pleasant shooting, bringing in a Somali-speaking sergeant to assist homicide investigators. Police are reviewing lots of video surveillance, she said, and police have received a few tips from the community. It’s historically been harder for police to get tips from Somali community members, she said, caused by many factors including fear, language-barriers and accessibility.
At recent community meetings, neighbors asked police how much assurance they can give that they truly protect informants.
“The notion from the police that this community is not forthcoming, that’s unacceptable,” Afyare said. “We have responsibility for the safety of our neighborhood.”
The Whittier Alliance is hosting a conversation with Minneapolis Crime Prevention Specialist Ahmed Hassan on Nov. 9 from 6-8:30 p.m. at Whittier Park.
Police Chief Janeé Harteau has said that addressing gun violence is a priority for herself and Mayor Betsy Hodges. As of Nov. 2, homicides citywide are running 34 percent higher than 2014 year-to-date.
“Many of our suspects in the shootings this year have lengthy criminal histories,” Harteau said. “They’re not first time offenders in the criminal justice system and we need to find ways to connect those dots, and try to predict and prevent shootings before the next one occurs.”