Another day in the Twin Cities

Last week we wrote (here and here) about the murderous July 4 gang assault on the father of a 12-year-old girl who was sexaully harassed at the local Twin Cities-area Valleyfair amusement park. The assailants knocked the girl’s father to the ground and took turns stomping on his head.

The Star Tribune has failed to report any information on the criminal records of those charged with the assault. Easily accessible court records indicate that the very young adult defendants have a long record of criminal charges and convictions including aggravated robbery and promoting prostitution. Several of these assailants should not have been walking the street at the time of the assault. Unfortunately, they now appear to be out on bail.

I raised the question whether these apparently related defendants were the next generation of the notorious Minneapolis-based Evans family gang. In 1999 and 2000, 18 Evans family gang members were convicted or pled guilty in federal court to operating a juvenile prostitution ring. Twelve of the 18 were actual family members.

This past Sunday Star Tribune columnist (and my friend) Katherine Kersten devoted a column to the Valleyfair assault. Referring to hip-hop, Kathy ascribed responsibility for the assault “to part of a culture that is all around us and flourishes with our blessing.” Speaking in its institutional voice, the Star Tribune looked to the usual “root causes.” Both Kathy’s cultural explanation and the Star Tribune’s reference to root causes diffuse responsibility so broadly as to render it meaningless.

Neither the Kersten column nor the Star Tribune editorial connected closely with the facts of the Valleyfair assault. More than anything, additional information is needed, especially about the defendants.

The gist of the Star Tribune editorial — instructing readers to overcome racist thoughts about the assault — led many readers to infer that the victim of the assault was white. As I discovered talking to reporter Jim Adams on Friday last week, however, the victim and his family are black. Nevertheless, the Star Tribune only got around to reporting it in this story yesterday.

At the time I spoke with him last week Adams had not been contacted by anyone on the Star Tribune editorial board and was unaware of the Star Tribune editorial that had appeared that day on the Valleyfair assault. I therefore doubt the Star Tribune editorial writer knew that the Valleyfair victim was black. Coincidentally, the typical intraracial character of the Valleyfair assault tends to demonstrate how misguided the Star Tribune’s race-based sympathy for the perpetrators of such offenses is.

Looking vainly for more information about the Valleyfair assault in the Star Tribune last Saturday, I instead found a horrendous wave of violent crime reported in the paper. At the top of page 1 Heron Marquez Estrada reported on the murder of the mother of the murderer’s ex-girlfriend in “New Brighton murder suspect made a hit list.”

At the bottom of page 1 Rochelle Olson reported on the sentencing of a woman sent away for 40 years for a four-year-old’s beating death. Olson’s story ran under the attention-grabbing headline “A family’s anguished cry: ‘Why?'”

On the front page of the Star Tribune’s local news section, Paul Levy reported on a husband’s knife murder of his wife and torching of their home in “Long-seething rage erupts in wife’s slaying, flames.” Levy leads with the perpetrator’s status as a wounded, alcoholic Vietnam vet.

Elsewhere on the same page Jim Adams reports the story “Recently released con followed, killed elderly woman.” Here the perpetrator brutally wielded a kitchen knife to kill his 90-year-old victim after robbing her in her suburban Twin Cities apartment.

Unlike the other serious crimes reported in last Saturday’s paper, this murder is an interracial affair. The defendant is black and the victim (Irene Kunze) was white. The Star Tribune devoted a separate story to Ms. Kunze in “Mother’s 9 decades were well-lived, daughter says.”

Another serious crime reported in last Saturday’s paper — relegated to page B4 — is one that I wrote about last year in “Rage against the bail.” On Saturday Anthony Lonetree reported “Tragic past won’t save convicted rapist from hard time.” This story has obvious cultural components.

Somali immigrant Rage Ibrahim was charged with the horrifying rape of a Somali woman in an apartment hallway while as many as ten bystanders (most or all of whom were Somali, if I am not mistaken) looked on. These bystander witnesses refused to testify against Ibrahim at trial. He was convicted on the basis of a hallway video recording of the rape.

The perpetrator attributed his misconduct to alcholism. His attorney threw in post-traumatic stress disorder as well. The victim did not attend the sentencing or even provide the judge a written statement. According to the prosecutor, “she is being shunned by the Somali community.”

Finally, also on page B4, the Star Tribune briefly reported on the case of a man accused of spraying pepper spray in a baby’s face. The baby is the man’s one-year-old daughter. The man is charged with 12 felony counts including beating the girl’s mother and her friend.

Each one of these crimes could usefully be illuminated by additional information and each certainly warrants further analysis. That these local crimes all crop up in the paper in a single day also strikes me as a story unto itself.

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