MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gunfire turned a youth football practice into a terrifying ordeal Monday night near Jordan Park in north Minneapolis.
Yelling at kids to get down on the ground sounds like a coach barking orders during a drill. In reality, it was a life or death situation, according to Coach David Trueblood.
“We ushered them over there to that corner [of a school building], being that it was concrete,” Trueblood said. “We know if they’re shooting from this way, at least we got concrete to protect them.”
Trueblood and Coach Marvin Thompson were leading practice with 50 kids ages five to 14 on their Minnesota Jays football team. Suddenly, gunfire down the block sent bullets through their field.
Carrie Heinrich, whose son is on the team, was parked nearby. She shared what she witnessed in a Facebook Live video that now has nearly 200,000 views.
“The worst feeling as a parent was seeing my kid laying out in the middle of an open field with bullets flying and not being able to get to him,” Henrich said in the video.
She later told WCCO she felt helpless.
“I’ll never forget the moment [my son] just locked eyes with me. And I just kept watching him making sure that his body didn’t jerk,” she said.
The shots originated from the same spot where a 17-year-old was killed Sunday night near 30th Street and North Knox Avenue. Jordan Park is a block away. The coaches feel Monday’s shooting was related to the previous night’s crime.
“We just don’t want them to think this is normal. We don’t want kids to think that they are gonna go to the park and somethings gonna happen to them,” Trueblood said.
During a brief break in the gunfire, the coaches rushed the kids to three large vans and SUVs, getting all of them inside before driving them to safety.
“It was by the grace of God none of those, none of the kids, none of the coaches, none of the parents got hit,” Heinrich said.
The Minnesota Jays is a traveling football team. Although they practice in Minneapolis, the kids come from all across the metro. The coaches say some of the players have witnessed gun violence, but for others it was their first time.
“We try to do our best to keep the kids away from that. We figure if we get them now, we can mold them in to be better men like us,” Thompson said.
He figured at least one of the players from the suburbs might be too afraid to return. Then he got a phone call later that night from the player.
“He was like, ‘Coach, I just want to say thank you. I finally see what a brotherhood is. This is what football is about, and I’ll be at practice on Wednesday,’ and that made my night,” he said.
Because of the shooting, practice will be held in a different part of town going forward. But it won’t stop this football family from sticking by each other’s side. Heinrich said she’ll never forget watching the coaches use their bodies to shield the children.
“It makes me know I made the right decision in driving to Minneapolis to take my child to football, knowing that those men treat my child like one of their own,” she said. “I’m not gonna let fear and those who have a disregard for life dictate what we do.”
The Minnesota Jays are hoping to get donations to help get the kids to and from practice safely.