Minneapolis city councilor ‘triggered’ by latest light rail shooting

It happens all too frequently, gunfire and violence at and around Metro Transit light rail stations. But there’s no substitute for witnessing a shooting firsthand to get the attention of politicians who could do something about it.

Last weekend Minneapolis City Councilor Jason Chavez was in the wrong place at the right time at the infamous Lake Street/Midtown light rail station. The traumatized first-term city councilor didn’t hold back on Facebook.

Last night, I was at the Lake Street Midtown Station w/Chief O’Hara where someone was shot. The victim is in critical condition. A suspect has been identified & no arrests have been made. I’m still triggered from hearing these gunshots and seeing this person drop to the ground.

It’s not normal. This has become a common occurrence at this station. It’s led to our students at South High not even feeling safe to take the light rail. Our transportation system should be safe for everyone and, quite frankly, it’s not.

The shooting came just weeks after Chavez held public meetings to address the rampant drug use, crime and other public safety threats at the Lake Street station, as well as two other South Minneapolis transit stops. The participants’ familiar list of grievances was covered by KSTP-TV.

“That unidentified smell — those are opioids that’s being smoked, that’s fentanyl,” said Muhammad Abdul-Ahad, the executive director of T.O.U.C.H Outreach, a violence interruption group. “The last past four months, my team has responded to over 30 overdoses. Seven of them didn’t have a pulse. We brought all seven back due to the Narcan training that we all had.”

Other public safety concerns were raised as well. Last month, a transgender woman suffered a serious head injury when she was assaulted at the Lake Street Midtown Station.

Serious crime on Metro Transit light rail trains and buses spiked by two-thirds in the first three months of 2023 over the same period last year. The chaos and crime Chavez described at the Lake Street station have become part of daily life for passengers who dare get onboard.

The mass accumulation of debris, overdoses, open drug use, deteriorating infrastructure, and lack of resources are some of the other issues we see at this station. South Minneapolis residents deserve better.

This week alone, I’ve heard multiple gun shots at this station. And over the past year we’ve had a trans woman brutally attacked, 3 people shot, including a student in October 2022, and many other close calls.

The much-ballyhooed 40-point safety plan Metro Transit announced nearly a year ago to improve public safety for transit riders and employees has yet to achieve significant results. Among other steps, the agency promises to hire private security officers to patrol the Lake Street and five other troubled transit stops starting this summer.

After witnessing a man being gunned down, Chavez sounds like a man on a mission.

While improvements have been made, I acknowledge that we need to act with more urgency. The reality is that we need to move dollars into these areas NOW. I’m committed to finding & shifting dollars immediately within the City to address this.