BY KAREN ZAMORA AND LIBOR JANY
STAR TRIBUNE (MINNEAPOLIS) / TNS
MINNEAPOLIS – Police have arrested one of the three White men who allegedly fired into a crowd near a Black Lives Matter encampment Monday night.
Authorities are weighing whether to treat the shooting of five people protesting near the Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th Precinct as a hate crime, sources familiar with the investigation said.
The protesters, angry over the fatal police shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark on Nov. 15, have maintained a presence outside the police station ever since.
Black male victims
The victims, all Black men – ages 19 through 43 – were taken to hospitals with noncritical injuries, according to police. The shootings occurred at 10:45 p.m. about a block north of the precinct station.
Minneapolis police said they arrested a 23-year-old suspect on Tuesday. They are still searching for the other two suspects.
Jie Wronski-Riley said the shooting occurred as angry protesters moved the men away from the encampment at the police station. Wronski-Riley heard what sounded like firecrackers and thought, “surely they’re not shooting humans.” Two young Black men on either side of him were hit, one in the back and leg, the other in the arm.
At least two of the three men who had been taunting protesters were firing guns, said Wronski-Riley, who described the incident as “really chaotic, really fast.”
The mother of shooting victim Draper Larkins said that her 38-year-old son was shot in the arm and is still hospitalized at North Memorial.
“He is so-so,” said Jaclyn Larkins. She said she had a feeling and feared for her son when he went out to protest Monday.
Carrie Brown, cousin of shooting victim Wesley Martin, said Martin was shot in the leg and released early Tuesday morning from the hospital.
“He’s itching to get back out here,” Brown said from the scene. “He’s really more mad that the injury is keeping him from coming back out to protest.
“We all were terrorized last night,” Brown added. “I’ve never seen racism like that.”
“I am obviously appalled that White supremacists would open fire on nonviolent, peaceful protesters,” said Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP, who returned to the site after the shootings.
FBI to investigate
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation is aware of the incident and is coordinating with the Minneapolis Police Department to assess the facts and determine if further federal action” is warranted, said FBI spokesman Kyle Loven.
Expressing concern for the safety of the protesters outside the precinct, Jamar Clark’s brother, Eddie Sutton, urged an end to the encampment.
“Thank you to the community for the incredible support you have shown for our family in this difficult time,” Sutton said in the statement issued early Tuesday.
“We appreciate Black Lives Matter for holding it down and keeping the protests peaceful. But in light of tonight’s shootings, the family feels out of imminent concern for the safety of the occupiers, we must get the occupation of the 4th Precinct ended and onto the next step.”
Miski Noor, a media contact for Black Lives Matter, said “a group of White supremacists showed up at the protest, as they have done most nights.”
One of the men wore a mask, said Dana Jaehnert, who had been at the protest site since early evening.
When about a dozen protesters attempted to herd the group away from the area, Noor said, they “opened fire on about six protesters,” hitting five of them. Jaehnert said she heard four gunshots.
In a video message posted on Facebook, Mayor Betsy Hodges said she “abhors” Monday night’s shooting and that “those attacks have no place in our city.”
‘Peace and rest’
Council President Barb Johnson said the shooting Monday evening was a “continuation of a stressful time for the neighbors that live in the area surrounding the 4th Precinct,” adding that “they deserve some peace and some rest.”
Johnson disputed comments that police had taken too long to react to the shooting, and said officers responded in three minutes. She said she believes it’s time for the demonstrations to end, in part because they are attracting attention from outside groups.
“That’s part of the problem with these protests: the longer they go on, the more participation there is from across the country,” Johnson said. “The longer it goes on, the worse it gets.”
Star Tribune staff writers Mary Lynn Smith and Claude Peck contributed to this report.