Soul food chef Wendy Puckett was just locking up Wendy's House of Soul one night last November when someone shot a BB gun and hit her in the face.
The pellet broke Puckett's nose and lodged under her eye. Only surgery could get it out.
House of Soul closed up shop for three weeks while Puckett recovered, and the community mourned her absence. Puckett had just recently received a “Rock of the Northside Award” for her efforts giving back to the community.
This was one of a rash of BB gun shootings in in north and northeast Minneapolis, a spree that went unpunished for months. On Friday, that changed.
Minneapolis police pulled over a white sedan near Washington and Lowry Avenues North. Spokesperson John Elder says cops recognized the car from a number of these property damage incidents, and there was “evidence” inside that could link them to “additional crimes.”
Police arrested four suspects found in the car: two adults, who were booked at Hennepin County, and two juveniles, who were sent home to their families. As of Tuesday afternoon, the adults have been named: 20-year-old James E. Wiley of Eden Prairie, and 18-year-old Amiah Lynnita Armstrong-Walker of Minneapolis. They’ve been released with charges pending.
Police believe the quartet may have been responsible for anywhere between a dozen and two dozen BB gun shootings, including Puckett’s injury and at least six car windows busted just last week.
Puckett and her sister/business partner, Heather Warfield, have been processing news of the arrest.
“Our first reaction is, 'How did we not know about this?'” Warfield says. They wished someone from the police had called them with an update before they saw headlines.
Puckett, who Warfield says wanted to be back in the kitchen the day after the incident, has recovered well physically from her shooting. But becoming the victim of random violence took a mental toll. She finds she can’t park her car on that side of the street anymore, and she’s lost a piece of whatever helped her feel safe and secure.
“She told me, ‘I don’t understand why I’m so angry,’” Warfield says.
Puckett’s not an “angry” person. She and Warfield don’t like to talk about it a lot, but House of Soul usually ends up donating to some organization or another every month, especially when it comes to helping local youth. They’ve also fed quite a few people who walked into the restaurant hungry but with no way to pay.
The one thing they’d hoped as the investigation carried on was that the crime was perpetrated by kids. The thought of an adult doing something so careless was too much to consider. After all, Puckett could have lost an eye, or died. Being out for weeks put a dent in their bottom line, and although they’re doing “okay” with the help of patrons’ kind words and donations, it wasn’t nothing.
“You didn’t just shoot someone, you shut down a business,” Warfield says. “You impacted a family.”
And although they don’t want anyone “brought down” with an especially draconian punishment, they do want them to understand what they’ve done.
On the plus side, a lot of new customers have been passing through House of Soul’s doors, and new opportunities have been opening up – not just because of the shooting, but because of the business’s sterling reputation. The most important thing people need to know is that their doors are open again, and they’re not going anywhere.
“We’re staying North Side,” Warfield says. “That’s for sure.”