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The death of Quantell Braxton, and its strange, tragic aftermath

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On Saturday, 14-year-old Quantell Braxton was planning to sleepover at a friend's house. Before the night wound down, they were hanging around in their neighborhood in north Minneapolis.

Around 11 p.m., the boys heard gunshots. Others scattered, but Braxton went down, dying in the street from his wounds.

The tragedy shook the neighborhood, and a memorial was placed in Braxton's honor. The next morning, the memorial had burned up. It's unclear if the memorial was torched deliberately, or accidentally caught fire, but police are looking into the incident as a potential crime.

Then, at a peace vigil for the neighborhood on Tuesday night, gunshots again haunted the night, and one woman at the vigil was wounded. She was taken to Memorial Hospital in critical condition. Sergeant Steve McCarty told City Pages that the second shooting was something of a new low for Minneapolis.

"I've been a police officer in this city for 20 years," McCarty said. "And I don't recall any incidents, personally, where anybody's been shot at a peace vigil." [jump]

As of yesterday, police had not tied the peace vigil shooting to the gunfire that killed Quantell Braxton, but hadn't ruled it out.

"It'd be naive for us not to look at it as unrelated," McCarty said.

As for the memorial, which had stuffed animals, balloons and greeting cards piled up on the corner of North 17th Ave. and Morgan Ave., its burning is still mysterious. McCarty pointed out it did include candles, and it's possible it simply caught fire overnight, but said police are still looking at it as a possible arson.

When asked, McCarty said there's no evidence that the crimes are gang-related, and police wouldn't use that term without proof. Moreover, Braxton's backstory doesn't lend itself to anything like that.

Braxton's mother, Cindy Braxton, told the Star Tribune her son was loved fiddling with electronics, and spent a lot of time at the Boys and Girls Club. She said he'd told her he wanted to be a "family man" someday -- hardly the profile of a gangbanger.

The neighborhood's pain and pleas for peace have fallen on deaf ears yet again. Last night at 16th and Russell Ave., just blocks from the site of Braxton's murder, another two teenage boys were shot, one of them fatally.

The boy who survived last night's shooting was between 12 and 14 years old, McCarty said, and the other boy's age and identity will be released by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.

Location of the two fatal shootings:

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