A couple shooting heroin, a child in the car, and police too busy to catch them

From inside her Corcoran home, a woman witnessed a couple shooting heroin with a little girl in the back of the minivan.

From inside her Corcoran home, a woman witnessed a couple shooting heroin with a little girl in the back of the minivan.

The minivan, a stranger to the usually quiet block in Minneapolis' Corcoran neighborhood, parked on a side street. Tara spotted it from her kitchen window. She summoned husband Edward.

The couple, who asked that only their first names be used for fear of retribution, could see a woman with a long ponytail in the driver's seat and a man riding shotgun. They were taking turns shooting heroin.

The minivan's dome light illuminated their intravenous bonding on the night of April 5, not quite 10 p.m. In the back seat was a little girl, with pigtails, wearing only a diaper. She looked to be no more than two years old.

"She was peeking her head between the seats," Tara says, "and crawling around in the back seat."

Tara dialed 911 as the couple in the van prepped their shared needle for a second round. Then she called again. Then once more, all in the span of 10 minutes.

"My urgency was because this was child abuse," Tara says. "I knew they would be driving away pretty soon, and once they did, the party was over."

Edward would place a fourth call, voicing his frustration to the dispatcher.

According to Tara, the 911 operator told her husband police weren't on the scene yet because "they were out saving lives."

Soon, the minivan motored off. Minneapolis police arrived about 20 minutes later, according to Tara.

Every 911 call, a sergeant explained to Tara and Edward, is given a priority status. The violent and bloody take first priority. The rest are assigned a place in line.

"If two people are shooting heroin and there's a child in the car with them. If that's not a priority, what is?" says Tara. "It broke my heart. That little kid — 

Police told her they couldn't get to her house ASAP because they were already chasing a stolen car -- with a dead body in the trunk. According to Tara, the sergeant said they can't just drop everything and bolt to the next emergency until they've wrapped up the incident at hand.  

"It was like watching an episode of [the TV show] Intervention and to have the police come and not care at all," she says. "It's like people have lost their minds. If they can't help the youngest, most vulnerable among us, what kind of expectations can we have?"

Minneapolis police spokesperson Corey Schmidt confirms the incident. The department's 3rd Precinct isn't undermanned, he says, nor did authorities at all minimize the seriousness of the reported crime. Officers arrived as fast as they could.

"When the calls were placed," Schmidt says, "everyone was tied up and we had no one who could immediately respond."