MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hundreds of people braved the cold and crowded into Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis for a candlelight vigil Wednesday night. The “Peace in Powderhorn” candlelight vigil was organized in response to a string of crimes in Powderhorn Park, but the latest sexual assault was the last straw for concerned neighbors.
Four teenage boys are charged with sexually assaulting a mother and attacking her children while they were cross country skiing through the park last Wednesday. Shortly after, police say the boys pulled a gun on two more teenage girls in a nearby garage, sexually assaulting them.
On Nov. 12, a drive by shooting left 12-year-old Guadalupe Hernandez critically injured by a bullet as she was walking with a group of young people near Chicago Avenue and 34th Street.
Concerns flooded a neighborhood forum within a week and the vigil was born.
“We organized this on e-mail and Facebook,” said Jessica Flannigan, a Powderhorn resident who came with her family. “Powderhorn is not Murderhorn. It’s a great place to live.”
Corrine Bruning organized the vigil with one mission in mind.
“To make sure people don’t retreat into their houses, after these senseless acts of violence that keep happening in this neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods. We want to bring light back to the neighborhood,” said Bruning.
Bruning read a letter from the mother who was attacked, where the mother said she won’t live in fear and plans to continue to use the park. The mother asked the community to show compassion for her attackers.
“At one point, the boys asked for our skis. I wish they could have taken them and used them and experienced the joy from the fresh snow, getting winded from exertion and cool fresh air, please send them all the love you can muster, I think they really need it,” read the letter from the mother.
Gary Hoover is a father who attended the vigil with the same message of compassion. He feels the community has abandoned troubled teens instead of embracing them.
“We need to spend plenty on safety and police, but spend plenty on young people so they don’t become criminals,” said Hoover.
Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak spoke at the vigil and encouraged the community to meet their neighbors and build relationships essential to a safe community.
The effort is far from over.
On Thursday, Dec. 2, the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association will host a safety brainstorming forum to discuss ways the community can increase safety through ideas like dog walking groups, park patrols. The public is welcome.
People at the vigil also collected money for Hernandez, who is still in the hospital. Anyone wishing to help can also go to this website.
WCCO-TV’s Lindsey Seavert Reports