By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
The story of Henry Moormann's death seems like a textbook gang jack--except that in this case none of the alleged players comes from the kind of neighborhood or background that people usually associate with gang-related violence. "When you hear 'gang member' you think of Minneapolis and St. Paul," says Mork. "You don't think of Richfield or Bloomington. But Burnsville has gang problems. Eden Prairie has gang members running around. We all do."
He sees Moormann's death as a result of the risks he took in life. Playing on the edge of a gang can kill you. "He was associated with the 2-1 Click," Mork says. "He knew the risks.... Very simply, 2-1 Click is a gang. They are into property crimes. They're into assaults. And they are into narcotics activity. Some might be wannabes, but they are no longer wannabes when they are considered part of the 2-1 Click. They are what they are--a gang member. They have arrived."
Depending on whom you talk to, Moormann's murder was either the latest or the last chapter in the rise and fall of the 2-1 Click, the loose-knit band of teenagers who had the upscale neighborhoods around 50th and France in an uproar all last summer. The adults who live here often have trouble seeing their own kids as "at-risk youth," much less as the gang they were branded by Mork and the Minneapolis police officers who eventually descended on the neighborhood in full force.
The intersection of 50th and France forms the boundaries of two cities: to the southwest there's Edina, one of the Twin Cities' wealthiest first-ring suburbs; to the north lies Minneapolis's old-wealth lakes district. Blue-collar Richfield stretches nearby to the east. Curving parkways, some of the city's only hills, and the lakes themselves make these neighborhoods hot real estate. Homes in the area run into the hundreds of thousands. Steve Minn, the only non-Democrat on the Minneapolis City Council, represents many of these neighborhoods. Fewer than 2 percent are poor by federal standards; more than 95 percent are white.
Bustling little commercial districts of coffee shops, service centers such as Bone Adventure pet grooming, and the nearby day spa for humans dot the neighborhood. Purveyors of notions fill out the shopping areas, along with concept boutiques like Presents of Angels, where shoppers with disposable income can purchase celestial accessories. Just to the east of France on 50th Street are the twin requirements for a teen hangout: a Dairy Queen and a Holiday store.
The doctors, lawyers, teachers and other professionals who buy into the neighborhoods here are "lovely, educated, liberal, nouveau folks," says Leslie Brancheau, who numbers herself among them. Brancheau, a marriage and family therapist in private practice, moved to Minneapolis's Linden Hills area from a big house in Kenwood after her own marriage fell apart. In her new corner of southwest Minneapolis, she found a kind of Little Rascals paradise where neighbors were friends, kids along the block were playmates, and everyone met up at the park for Little League. It was like living in a small town community, she says. "We all huddle like this. And when our kids are little, everything is fine."
When she moved to the neighborhood, Brancheau started her kids in hockey and baseball. But her upwardly mobile neighbors seemed to approach the competitions with a feverish drive. "My kids have been involved in hockey and baseball since they were 5, and it even starts back there," she says. "You'll always find some parents. It's crazy. They'll even form their own teams so their kids can play, coaches just hanging in there so their kid can play every year," she says. "For a lot of parents--dads more so than moms--it's got to do with, 'This reflects on me.'"
The pressure only intensifies when kids reach school age. For a while Brancheau's oldest son, Greg (not his real name), kept cool under pressure. When he was 14 he helped the team win a championship. But then he got into trouble. After that, he was ostracized. "He hardly played that whole season," Brancheau remembers. "The summer before he played a lot."
Brancheau got the silent treatment from some of the parents, too. "They just kind of don't talk to you as much at the sporting events," she says. "Among themselves they might say, 'Oh, she just wasn't strict enough,' or something like that. Or even though 50 percent of families are single-parent, people want to shove it off on that issue. They might say that to one or two of their friends, but not to me. It's very quiet. Very subtle. Not all of them, but some parents, they just kind of ignore you and walk away. Kind of like there's leprosy around."
When Greg's baseball team was in the playoffs that year, he missed a ball. The coach pulled him out of the game for the error. Then he told the child, "We don't want your kind around here."
If parents sow the seeds of division on the baseball fields and the hockey rinks, then by the time their kids are in high school, the divisions are in full bloom. Jocks are at the top of the social ladder at the neighborhood high school, Southwest, just as they were in Little League. Nonathletes can go into the rigorously academic International Baccalaureate program.