MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — A mother who had a suspicious feeling after she dropped off her toddler at a home day care Monday returned to the house a few minutes later to make a grisly discovery: three adults inside, shot dead.
The woman’s child was unhurt and no other children were at the day care at the time. Police had made no arrests by Monday evening and were seeking a suspect in his mid-20s, believed to have fled on a BMX bicycle.
The suspect is described as wearing blue jeans and a navy blue sweatshirt with a gray hood and two 1-inch white stripes down the back.
Relatives told WCCO-TV DeLois 59-year-old Brown and her parents were the victims.
“It’s a tragic day for the city of Brooklyn Park,” Brooklyn Park Police Chief Michael Davis said. “We are going to bring whoever is responsible for this to justice.”
Two nearby community colleges were locked down for several hours after the shootings were reported at 6:30 a.m. Both had re-opened by Monday afternoon, after police spent the day canvassing the area and using police dogs to search for the suspect.
The day care, called Visions and Butterflies Child Care, is licensed to care for as many as 12 children. Brown is listed in state records as the license holder in good standing, with no adverse rulings or restrictions. The license is valid through February 2013.
No one responded to a call to the home Monday afternoon.
Police did not release the identities of the victims or the woman who found them.
Police Inspector Todd Milburn said the mother dropped off her child at the house and spoke with someone there. As she was leaving, she saw a man near the house on foot, and something about him raised her suspicions.
“There was some reason for her to call back to the home,” Milburn said.
The woman called the day care and was talking to someone at the house when the line went dead, Milburn said. She returned to the home and found three people had been shot. She grabbed her child and called 911. Police confirmed the victims were dead when they arrived.
No one else was inside the home when the woman returned, Milburn said.
Milburn said the woman saw the same suspicious man nearby, on a bicycle, when she returned to the day care.
Police said they had no information on how many children were typically cared for at Brown’s home, or when they were normally dropped off.
A neighbor, Hakeem Hughes, 18, said he heard screaming coming from the direction of the house around 6:30 a.m. but didn’t pay much attention because children often played outside the home. When he went to catch his bus to school, he said police told him to go back inside because a gunman was on the loose.
“I’m just shocked about it,” Hughes said. “They are good people. They are innocent people.”
A few hours after the shootings, police tape was stretched around the house, a gray split-level in a modest neighborhood with children’s toys in the fenced backyard. The Hennepin County sheriff’s crime lab van was parked outside, and authorities went in and out, carrying what appeared to be evidence to the van.
A small group of people stood in the street several houses down, sobbing and hugging each other.
Brown’s LinkedIn profile lists her as follow-up coordinator for Pink Purse Project Inc., a women’s and girls’ empowerment organization. She worked for nearly nine years in the nearby Osseo Area Schools system as a child care instructor and later child care site supervisor.
Ron Brown, DeLois’ brother-in-law, said DeLois had just moved her parents to Minnesota from the St. Louis area. He said his brother, Joseph, died in February, and DeLois brought her parents up to Minnesota from Illinois just last week so she could take care of them.
“She called us a week ago today, to say they made it back safe and sound with a truckload of furniture,” Ron Brown said.
Brown said DeLois and Joseph didn’t have any children together, but DeLois had children before the pair were married.
A neighbor, Lisa Johnson, said that since Joseph died, the house had been busier, with more people coming and going. Johnson said she saw a moving van outside Brown’s home a week ago.
Hennepin Technical College’s Brooklyn Park campus went into lockdown around 6:45 a.m. as a precaution. The lockdown was lifted by early afternoon.
Osseo High School was on lockdown until 9:30 a.m. but is now operating as normal. Spokesperson Barb Olson said it was more of a reverse evacuation — where no one is allowed into the building, but classes continued.
Police are asking anyone who may have seen the suspect to call the Brooklyn Park Police at 763-493-8222.
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