MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — St. Paul’s police chief has some strong words about Sunday morning’s mass shooting, and what needs to happen next.

Fifteen people were shot, one of who died, inside the popular bar Seventh Street Truck Park near Xcel Energy Center.

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Chief Todd Axtell got the text minutes after it happened.

“It’s a night that I have never experienced,” Axtell said.

Twenty-seven-year-old Marquisha Wiley was gone, and he had to brief her devastated family.

“It’s gut wrenching, it tears you up,” he said. “Having a daughter that’s very close to the same age as Wiley’s daughter, you know, it just hits you at its core.”

And just like the grief, Chief Axtell says the problem is also complicated.

Police Chief Todd Axtell (credit: CBS)

“We need to do better, all of us need to do better, community, police, prosecutor and the bench to hold people unapologetically to account for the continued violence in our city,” he said.

WCCO asked Axtell if having more officers on the street could’ve prevented this tragedy.

“Even if we would have had 200 officers throughout our city on patrol that night, this event most likely would have happened anyway.”

Still, he says he believes if he was able to fill all 620 positions, cases could be more thoroughly worked.

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“I’m not allowed with the current staffing levels that we have to consistently get our officers the time off that they need,” Axtell said. “And when we have tired officers, that’s when mistakes happen.”

WCCO asked what Chief Axtell would say to those scared to go downtown.

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“We have not given up, the officers in this department have not given up,” he said. “We are so passionate within the St. Paul Police Department to make sure we do everything we possibly can to prevent this from happening in the future. And if we have to step on some toes and hurt some feelings while we do that, so be it.”

Axtell says there needs to be a more open dialogue about the root problems, and why there are so many repeat offender crimes. He says people should be able to have those blunt conversations without worrying about offending each other.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Watch the extended interview with Axtell below.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield