MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Once again, weekend nightlife in downtown Minneapolis was unnervingly interrupted by gunfire in the heart of the city’s crowded entertainment district.

The latest shooting led to a hectic scene as officers helped tend to the victim, search for a shooter, and control the anxious crowds that had just been let out of several bars and clubs.

The shooting happened around 2:15 a.m. Sunday near Monarch Nightclub on First Avenue near Fourth Street.

WCCO reporter Jeff Wagner and a photographer were already in the area when the incident happened, ironically working on a story about downtown safety concerns in light of the gun violence this summer.

As some are fast asleep, others come alive, choosing downtown Minneapolis as their late-night escape. While Twins fans head home, partiers are hitting their stride. Roads are packed with traffic, sidewalks packed with people. It’s a setting, infused with alcohol, that has police working to keep the peace.

From a safety standpoint, early Sunday morning felt calm. But 15 minutes after the bars closed, that changed in a flash.

“We (were) at Pizza Luce and then we heard just a barrage of gun shots,” witness Onyame Davis told WCCO. “Everybody was ducking.”

A man shot in the ankle was taken to the hospital, but what you couldn’t see on tape was the overall confusion, fear and shock that gunfire really did erupt in a place people hope is safe. One woman who appeared frightened was pleading with her friends to go home. Others stuck around, phones in hand, capturing the scene on camera.

The chaos wasn’t contained to that instant. Wagner reported officers sprinted up the block before putting a man in handcuffs.

Other police tried to control the at times unruly crowd that was wanting to know why the man was being detained. Although the man was placed in a squad car, and later an ambulance, police said Sunday that no one is in custody. They added that several witnesses shared information, giving them leads to investigate.

And then, a block minutes earlier filled with traffic and people was cordoned off, bringing the weekend night to an abrupt and tense ending.

Mayor Jacob Frey gave the following statement to WCCO: “People in Minneapolis are counting on us as city leaders to step up and take action. That means giving our police officers the support and staffing they need to advance police-community relations and effectively curb violent crime in all our neighborhoods. While I remain committed to working with community and business leaders on new strategies for preventing crime, it is also clear that we can’t continue to ask (Minneapolis Police) Chief Arradondo to do more with less.”

Frey’s desire to ensure people are safe is shared by the members of Minneapolis City Council members, but not all agree when it comes to increasing police staffing. WCCO talked on the phone with council-member Steve Fletcher, whose ward encompasses this area of downtown.

“We had probably between four and eight officers within half a block of where the shooting happened, so I’m not sure that if we had 10 that would have stopped it. At some point we have to look at what actually is going to get to the root cause,” Fletcher said.

Bar owners WCCO talked with before this latest shooting feel a lack of enforcement on petty crimes — like loitering — which allows people with bad intentions to push the limits of what they can do. They said they feel the environment in the entertainment district has worsened. Fletcher disagrees.

“It’s very easy to accept a narrative that says violence is up a little bit from last year, and so we’re going to portray this as really dangerous and we’re going to create a negative cycle where then people don’t want to come downtown,” Fletcher said. “And the truth of the matter is crime is trending down, Minneapolis is getting safer and safer.”

Last month, Minneapolis Police said that although crime does pick up in the summer months, the city is coming off a 30-year low of violent crime. Even so, Chief Arradondo is asking that more officers join the force.

Jeff Wagner

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