MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) – Two teenagers have been charged in a Minneapolis shooting that killed a 5-year-old boy who had been sleeping on his grandmother’s couch.
Nizzel George was sleeping on the couch in his grandmother’s home on the 4500 block of Bryant Avenue last Tuesday when shots rang out from outside the house. A stray bullet hit Nizzel in the back. He was taken to North Memorial Medical Center and later pronounced dead. George was just a few months shy of turning 6.
Seventeen-year-old Stephon Shannon was charged Monday with aiding and abetting first-degree murder. A 15-year-old boy was also charged as a juvenile and details about his case are not public. Both remained in custody Monday. It wasn’t clear if Shannon had an attorney. He was not scheduled to make a court appearance until Tuesday.
According to the charges, Shannon allegedly told a witness that he made peace with God about the shooting and was “sorry about the baby.” The witness tried to get Shannon to turn himself in but he refused, saying the police “didn’t have nothin’ on him.”
The criminal complaint says Shannon told a witness he fired at the house. He also said he was on the porch of a nearby house when it was shot at the night before, and he believed someone associated with the house where Nizzel was staying was responsible.
Shannon also berated officers for the unsolved September murder of a teenager, and said if he knew who committed that crime, he would not tell police but would take care of it himself.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman described Nizzel’s death as having possibly stemmed from an act of bravado at a convenience store that involved the 15-year-old boy.
“This absolutely tragic and unnecessary shooting was generated by young people with guns, acting in retribution for some unknown and some unjustified problem in the past,” Freeman said. “This is an innocent 5-year-old kid who was mowed down sleeping on his grandma’s couch. That, folks, is not acceptable.”
Freeman said witnesses helped authorities identify the 15-year-old boy.
The 15-year-old had allegedly “shoved a pistol in somebody’s face” at a convenience store, according to Freeman. This act led to a shooting at the Camden Avenue house, which in turn led to a retaliation shooting at the Bryant Avenue house where Nizzel was sleeping.
The boy admitted to police that he had “upped the gun” to a group of people at the convenience store, because he heard them talking about how he was from the “other side.”
The boy’s name has not been released, due to his age. Freeman said the process to try him as an adult will occur.
Police say they located 10 discharged cartridge casings outside the Bryant Avenue home where Nizzel was shot. Eight bullets hit the home, including one that hit the railing on the front steps.
Police say three other children were sleeping on the couch with George at the time of the shooting.
Freeman said authorities are still investigating Nizzel’s death, and they wouldn’t release details about the gun or who fired the shots.
When asked if the shooting was gang related, Freeman said the community has had a lot of violence in the community, mostly by small groups of people affiliated under different names.
“It’s a bunch of kids, with guns, shooting each other,” he said.
Freeman condemned retaliation, while police and community activists stressed the need for people with information to come forward. Police said they need more information in Nizzel’s case, as well as in the death of Terrell Mayes, a 3-year-old killed six months ago when a stray bullet entered his house.
“If you know something and you are holding back, I want you to know that you are contributing to the delinquency of a minor,” said City Council member Don Samuels. “You cannot walk away.”
Nizzel’s father, Cornelius George, said he wants justice, and he had a message for teens with guns.
“Sometimes you’ve got to make the right choice … think before you react,” he said. “Put the weapons down. Go to school. Get an education. Learn. Become somebody.”
The community gathered on Sunday to remember George and discuss ways to limit violence and get guns off the streets of north Minneapolis. Nizzel’s funeral is scheduled for Tuesday.
The two teens were arrested Friday.
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