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Suspect arrested in Lincoln Park shooting; officials try to quell fears after rash of gun crimes in Duluth

John Myers

Forum News Service

Duluth police announced Monday that they have arrested a suspect in a Sunday morning shooting in Lincoln Park, the city’s fifth gun-related crime in eight days.

The string of gunplay was enough to spur Police Chief Mike Tusken and Mayor Emily Larson to hold a news conference Monday to address the nature of the crimes and portray what they say is still a very safe city to live in.

“Violent crime is down in Duluth” in recent years, Tusken noted. That includes robberies which dropped from 129 in 2008 to 65 in 2016.

The recent string — three shootings with injuries and two armed robberies — are a temporary “uptick in crime” and not part of a longer-lived or larger trend, Tusken told reporters.

The three shootings since Jan. 21 are not related but also “were not random. These people knew each other and (these) were targeted shootings,” Tusken said, attempting to allay fears that random crime was plaguing the city.

Tusken said there has been no arrest in an armed robbery that occurred Sunday at the Taco John's restaurant at 4601 Grand Ave., in which a gun and knife were displayed. Tusken also acknowledged another armed robbery with a gun last week at Highland Village Apartments in Duluth Heights but refused to release any details on that crime.

Tusken said there appears to be an uptick in gun-related crime in the city, noting gun confiscations by police hit 85 in 2016, more than double the 42 confiscated in 2015. Most of those gun confiscations come during search warrants that target felons and suspected criminals, Tusken said, part of the department's proactive efforts to prevent crime.

“There are a lot more people with guns now, legally,” Tusken noted, adding that sometimes those guns are stolen in car prowls or other crimes and become guns used in crimes. “We need to be careful in how we store and carry firearms.”

“Without question, there’s concern” among law enforcement and city officials, Tusken said of the surge in gun crime, but he urged people to look at the overall downward trend of violent crimes in the city. “My job is not just to reduce crime but also (reduce the) fear of crime.”

The news conference was to assure the public that “we are taking this very seriously.”

Larson said the media event was held to update reporters with current information and to try to get ahead of the public social media posts and other rumors that are sometimes accurate but often not.

“Yes, these are very real incidents” but they are still isolated, Larson said, and the city is responding to and solving each case in a timely manner.

She said she also wanted to make a public statement to anyone thinking of performing a crime in Duluth, to anyone who might see the recent crime spree “as an opportunity to get a foothold in Duluth. … We are watching. We are on it.”

Three shootings in eight days

One man has been charged with felony second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon in the Jan. 21 shooting at the Lake Superior Bottle Shop, 31 E. First St. Another has been charged with possession of a firearm. Police apprehended the suspects within seconds of the event, Tusken said.

The victim of that shooting, a 28-year-old man, was shot in the abdomen but is recovering, Tusken said. Duluth police have declined to release the 28-year-old victim's identity, citing concerns for his safety.

The second shooting occurred Thursday at 10:18 p.m. at 702 E. Fourth St. That victim, a 17-year-old boy, suffered non-life-threatening injuries and is recovering, Tusken said, but no arrests have been made. “We have a person of interest” in the case, Tusken said Monday. Police have not identified the victim of that shooting.

The third shooting occurred early Sunday morning in the 2200 block of West Second Street. A 27-year-old man was arrested at about 10 p.m. Sunday and is in the St. Louis County Jail in Duluth. He has not yet been formally charged with a crime.

The victim of the Sunday shooting, a 25-year-old man, was shot in the chest and was hospitalized in critical but stable condition Monday, Tusken said. He also has not yet been identified by authorities.

Tusken said police are still puzzled at what led up to the Sunday shooting.

“We do not have clarity on what caused or contributed to that,” Tusken said.