Up until September 2004, I lived across the street from where Victor Garma lived. That's why when news broke earlier this week of his murder in a botched robbery in his townhome, I couldn't help but feel a little shaken.
And others in my social circle clearly felt the same way: Info on Garma's Ford Explorer, which the assailants used as a get-away, circulated via e-mail at work. My best friend, who lives on the block with his wife and three-year-old daughter, called me to express some well-founded anxiety and some barely calibrated fear. Televison news crews pumped the story beyond the 24-hour news cycle.
This was a "good" neighborhood, the conventional wisdom was saying--and because of that, this was an outrageous crime.
So it was with a sense of my own hypocrisy that I called MPD spokesman Ron Reier to find out a little more about Garma. After getting what little info there was on him--26 years old, African American male--I mentioned to Reier that I thought it was telling how much the attention this crime was getting compared to two other homicides that happened around the same time.
"There is the feeling that this means more because of where it happened," Reier offered. "Do you know how many calls I got on this? It's been incredible. The other two murders, we barely got any calls or media on those. It's like they barely registered."
Those "other two murders" were no less harrowing than the killing of Garma, who was repeatedly stabbed. The city's first homicide of 2006 took place last Sunday, when Janaya Allen, a 20-year-old woman from St. Paul, was dropped off at North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, where she was pronounced dead. She had been shot in the head.
(Investigators, according to Reier, initially thought that perhaps the shooting took place in Fridley, but the MPD now believes it happened somewhere in north Minneapolis.)
The second took place the next day, Monday, at 6 p.m., about 90 minutes before the Garma murder. Jesse J. Maynor III, 17 years old, was standing on the corner of 34th and Girard Avenue North when a car pulled up, someone jumped out, and shot him repeatedly. Grief counselors were called into North High, where Maynor was a student.
Beyond one Star Tribune story by David Chanen, Reier said not much was asked about the other two murders, since they happened on the North Side, where apparently these killings have become so routine that we generally don't acknowledge them much beyond the fact that they happened.
"Do you know how many incidents are logged on the Watch Command Report overnight?" Reier asked rhetorically. ""I read them every morning. Here's one: 9:15 p.m., multiple shots fired at Henry High School. 9:25, ten minutes later, uncooperative victim at North Memorial. It's noted that's not tied to the shots at Henry. Midnight, uncooperative gunshot-wound victim, north side. That's one evening.
"Almost every day or night, this goes on," Reier continued, "And 80 percent of it is on the north side. The rest are mostly out of the 3rd Precinct [south central]. It's only when it happens somewhere elsed you hear about it."
UPDATE: The MPD has a suspect in the Janaya Allen murder. Here's the press release, which came over the transom just seconds ago:
(Minneapolis, MN January 27, 2006) Andre Tyrone JOHNSON, DOB: 4/14/1986, has been charged by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office with 2 counts of First Degree Murder in the death of Janaya Nicole ALLEN, DOB: 5/30/1985.
ALLEN was murdered during the early morning hours of January 22, 2006. It is believed the shooting took place in the area of 14th/Queen Avenue North in Minneapolis. ALLEN was then driven to North Memorial Medical Center where she was pronounced dead.
JOHNSON was taken into custody by the Minneapolis Police upon his release on bail from the Ramsey County Jail on Wednesday, January 25, 2005.
JOHNSON is currently in custody at the Hennepin County Jail.