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Associated Press, Published July 02 2012

2 charged in Minn. shooting that killed 5-year-old

MINNEAPOLIS — Two teenagers were charged Monday with first-degree murder in a shooting that claimed the life of a 5-year-old boy as he was sleeping on his grandmother's couch in north Minneapolis last week.

According to a criminal complaint, the teens shot as many as 10 rounds at the house where Nizzel George was sleeping last Tuesday to retaliate for a shooting that happened at another house a night earlier. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the individuals involved have a long "history."

"This absolutely tragic and unnecessary shooting was generated by young people with guns, acting in retribution for some unknown and some unjustified problem in the past," Freeman said. "This is an innocent 5-year-old kid who was mowed down sleeping on his grandma's couch. That, folks, is not acceptable."

Prosecutors charged two teens, ages 17 and 15, with the most serious charge of premeditated first-degree murder. The older boy, Stephon Terrell Shannon of Minneapolis, was charged as an adult. The younger boy was charged as a juvenile and details about his case are not public.

Both remained in custody Monday. It wasn't clear if Shannon had an attorney. He was not scheduled to make a court appearance until Tuesday.

According to a criminal complaint in Shannon's case, Shannon told a witness he was on the porch of a house on Camden Avenue when it was shot, and he believed someone associated with the house where Nizzel was staying was responsible. Shannon told the witness he fired at that house and that "he had made his peace with God and was sorry about the baby," the complaint said.

The witness tried to get Shannon to turn himself in, but he refused, saying police didn't have evidence, according to the complaint.

When interviewed by police after his arrest, Shannon acknowledged he talked to the witness but denied that he had confessed to the killing. He also denied being at the scene of Nizzel's killing.

The 15-year-old also told police he was in the house on Camden Avenue right before the shooting, according to the complaint. He denied participating in the shooting at the house where Nizzel was staying, but admitted he had pointed a gun at two teens at a local convenient store before the house on Camden was shot — an incident that prosecutors said may have set off the chain of events.

Shannon also berated officers for the unsolved September murder of a teenager, and said if he knew who committed that crime, he would not tell police but would take care of it himself.

Freeman said authorities are still investigating Nizzel's death, and they wouldn't release details about the gun or who fired the shots.

When asked if the shooting was gang related, Freeman said the community has had a lot of violence in the community, mostly by small groups of people affiliated under different names.

"It's a bunch of kids, with guns, shooting each other," he said.

Freeman condemned retaliation, while police and community activists stressed the need for people with information to come forward. Police said they need more information in Nizzel's case, as well as in the death of Terrell Mayes, a 3-year-old killed six months ago when a stray bullet entered his house.

"If you know something and you are holding back, I want you to know that you are contributing to the delinquency of a minor," said City Council member Don Samuels. "You cannot walk away."

Nizzel's father, Cornelius George, said he wants justice, and he had a message for teens with guns.

"Sometimes you've got to make the right choice ... think before you react," he said. "Put the weapons down. Go to school. Get an education. Learn. Become somebody."

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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.