Minneapolis police are relying on community assistance to identify a suspect likely connected to several assaults near the University of Minnesota.
Earlier this month, the Minneapolis Police Department announced it had gathered evidence indicating multiple sexual assaults and attempted assaults, predominantly in Marcy-Holmes, are linked to a single suspect.
Community organizations are actively distributing suspect information and police sketches. But outreach efforts have been adjusted after the governor’s executive order Wednesday directing Minnesota residents to stay at home except for essential needs.
“Right now, all we can do is redistribute the information the police have given us,” said Chris Lautenschlager, executive director of Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association. “There is still obviously an open and active investigation, but right now with current circumstances, we are having a hard time having any meetings.”
All MHNA meetings have been postponed until next month, should COVID-19 pandemic conditions settle down by then. Lautenschlager is currently figuring out how to host a community meeting via Zoom to facilitate a productive conversation while practicing social distancing.
“With a public safety meeting, there could be 50 to 75 people. We have to have a strong ability to moderate when we have three people that want to talk at the same time and often over each other,” Lautenschalger said.
Off-Campus Living’s Gopher Watch is also working on distributing the MPD release in their newsletter, website and social media outlets, said University graduate student and Gopher Watch neighborhood liaison Cody Hoerning.
“We are reminding the off-campus community to continue using vigilance until this person is caught, and really always using vigilance,” Hoerning said. “From what I know from the police department, these assaults have occurred in the morning and the afternoon and at night, so there's no pattern there.”
Prior to news of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social distancing measures, OCL staff were planning self-defense workshops and other safety projects, including adding low-level lighting to additional routes in the neighborhood, Hoerning said.
OCL had planned to revamp safety walks from last fall starting next week, but now all initiatives will be postponed until further notice.
Josie Wilde, a recent University graduate and current Dinkytown resident first heard of the suspect from an email she received from her landlord. Wilde said she saw the sketches posted throughout the neighborhood, including Dinkytown Wine and Spirits, which made her aware of the severity of the situation.
“I live with seven other girls, so eight total,” Wilde said. “I mean, obviously it's kind of unnerving. We're just trying to be on the lookout for each other, making sure that nobody's walking alone or driving to get somebody alone.”