Amy Forliti, Associated Press, Published June 26 2012
UPDATED: Sleeping boy killed on couch by stray bullet a 'heinous act,' Minneapolis mayor says
The shooting of 5-year-old Nizzel Anthony George at his grandmother’s house comes six months after another child was killed by a stray bullet that entered a home just 20 blocks away. Outraged city officials and community members are calling for an end to the gun violence.
“I’m pissed off. I’m plenty pissed off,” Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said, growing emotional as he talked about the most recent killing at a news conference. He called it a “heinous act” and “despicable” and urged community members to channel their outrage into generating tips that can lead to an arrest instead of resorting to more violence.
“Do not protect a person who is using a gun to kill a kid,” he said.
No arrests have been made in Tuesday’s shooting. Police said have been interviewing witnesses and asking for anyone who might have information to come forward.
“My baby is supposed to be at the swimming pool. My baby is supposed to be at the park. My baby is at the morgue,” said Nizzel’s mother, Christina Banks, who lives in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Park.
Holding a framed picture of her son, Banks sobbed as she looked at the balloons, candles and angel figurines left outside the north Minneapolis home where the shooting happened. Nizzel’s small Chicago Bulls jacket and photos of the boy helped fill out the memorial.
The boy had stayed overnight at his grandmother’s house because he was to go swimming with his uncles Tuesday, relatives said. One of the uncles, Robert Tolliver, said he rose at 8 a.m. to make breakfast and heard what sounded like fireworks.
Tolliver said Nizzel and his grandmother came running from a room at the front of the house. Nizzel was hollering “Oh, Oh!” and then lay down on a couch and began crying. Tolliver said he saw Nizzel was bleeding and it looked like he was shot in the back.
Seven bullet holes could be seen in the side of the house hours after the shooting. Inside, family members pointed out at least four holes where they said police had dug out bullets.
Police said the house was the intended target of the shooting around 8:30 a.m. “We know we have an ongoing dispute. We do not want to see more shootings,” said Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan, joining the mayor in pleading for peace.
Dolan would not discuss the nature of the dispute, but said authorities are making progress in the case.
Investigators think one person on foot fired about 10 shots at the house. At least one bullet went through a wall and struck the boy, killing him.
“It’s extremely tragic when you have these young, innocent kids who are killed as a result of poor choices that are made by older kids and adults that are around them,” Minneapolis police Inspector Mike Martin said.
Several people were inside the house, including other children, at the time of the shooting.
It’s about 20 blocks from the house where 3-year-old Terrell Mayes was killed by a stray bullet six months ago. A bullet came through the wall and hit Terrell in the head as he was on the stairs inside.
Terrell’s mother, Marsha Mayes, went to the scene of Tuesday’s shooting.
“I got the news this morning, and I felt like it is happening to Terrell all over again,” she told the Star Tribune. “Today marks six months for me (since Terrell’s shooting), and here I am for another one.”
There have been no arrests in that case.
Police also called on the community’s help last summer after a surge in shootings left two boys, 13 and 14, dead and a third injured. Officers at the time stepped up enforcement of curfews and police patrols.
“We have far too much gunplay out there,” Dolan said, adding that too many young men are deciding to use guns to deal with their disputes.
“I don’t have the answers to that, but ... that’s what we have to try to stop,” the police chief said. “We still have the rest of the summer ahead of us. And we need to, as a community, try to reduce the gun violence with these youth.”