No suspects yet in shooting death of two Minneapolis teensby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Police officials don't have any suspects in custody for the recent shooting deaths of two teenagers killed on the city's north side.
As police continue the investigation, many asking why the violence persists and what's being done to stop it.
The shooting deaths of 14-year-old Quantell Braxton and 13-year-old RayJon Gomez drew public attention.
Earlier this week, Crimestoppers put up a reward of up to $1,000 for information in the Braxton case. Police officials hoped the reward and the timing of schools resuming session would yield some good tips. None, however, have led to arrests.
Capt. Amelia Huffman, head of the Minneapolis Police Department's homicide unit, said sometimes cases take months or even years to solve.
"Some cases can't get solved until a particular witness is in a place where they feel like they can bring forward information they have," Huffman said. "Sometimes that means young people grow up and they get some perspective and they realize that they need to come forward with something that they know that is critical to a case."
While each case is unique, young victims are usually killed by other young people, between the ages of 15 and 24 years, Huffman said.
People who live on Minneapolis' north side spark a lively discussion of what could be behind youth violence.
"Nobody knows why these things happen? People, they say 'young.' I would say, don't call them young," said Bassem Kablaoui, owner of Lowry Food Market in north Minneapolis for 21 years. The market is located about two miles from where the latest violence occurred. Kablaoui said the neighborhood has seen violence in the past. He's been robbed at gunpoint twice.
"Don't call them kids. Because you justify it," Kablaoui said. "If he has a gun, that means he's thinking."
Kablaoui talks as customers steadily stream in and out the store to buy soda, chips and cigarettes. He knows many of his customers by name. He even lets some pay later if they don't have money on them.
Kablaoui watched some of his young customers grow up over the years. Aside from what he calls an occasional 'smart aleck kid', Kablaoui says most are fine. He says some young people get in trouble with the law because they lack education and jobs. But he says poverty is no excuse for violence.
"See I'm a Palestinian, OK? I grew up in refugee camp in Lebanon. We sleep, eight of us in a tent for seven years. We used to eat nothing but the bread and salt and water. Poverty doesn't do that."
Greed and disregard for human life cause people to kill each other, he said.
A group of three teenage boys dressed in mostly black clothing walk in the store. One is wearing a black baseball cap tilted to the side, and he carries a bunch of cigarettes in one hand. Statistically speaking, these young men are most likely to commit violence or be harmed by it.
One speaks about the neighborhood rough reputation.
"It's as rough as you make it. If you call yourself having a name out here it's going to be rough," he said.
The term 'having a name' is a phrase police are familiar with. It means having a reputation as a tough guy. The teenagers, who admit they should be in school, don't stay and chat about what they think the term means.
Those who study youth violence say kids involved in crimes often don't have a lot parental supervision and could benefit from mentors.
The Minneapolis Health Department oversees the city's youth violence prevention programs to provide mentors to kids who need positive adult role models.
The recent shootings have lead to a few additional initiatives including a listening session held earlier this week where young people gathered in north Minneapolis to help sort out their grief, said Gretchen Musicant, head of Minneapolis Health Department
"There is literature to show that if we help young people move through the grief process, they're less likely to get kind of internalized, to use alcohol and drugs to self-medicate for some of their feelings and keep them from getting into future trouble," Musicant said.
The combination of public health and law enforcement efforts has helped reduce youth violence. Musicant said since the middle of last year the number of juvenile crime suspects in the city has decreased by 14 percent. And since 2007, that number has fallen by more than 60 percent.
- All Things Considered, 09/02/2011, 5:24 p.m.