Feds pledge resources to crack down on Twin Cities violent crime surge

Gangs and gang activity are at the root of many of the shootings and violent crime in Minnesota, Luger said.

Andrew Luger/U.S. Attorney's Office

Nearly two years into a violent crime wave that has plagued Minneapolis and St. Paul, and which in recent months has surged into suburban areas of the Twin Cities, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Minnesota says they are partnering with other federal agencies to focus increased resources on arresting and prosecuting violent offenders.

“This plague of violence cannot continue,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Andrew Luger Tuesday when announcing what he called a joint federal strategy to combat violent crime in Minnesota.

Luger, who was recently reappointed by President Joe Biden and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the position he previously held in Minnesota under the Obama administration, was joined at the Tuesday press conference by officials with the FBI, ATF, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, as well as the chiefs of police for both Minneapolis and St. Paul. Luger said all of the agencies will be working together on the new joint strategy, including law enforcement from Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

Violent crime is at an all-time high in the Twin Cities and much of the state, Luger said. He began his comments by stating that everyone in Minnesota deserves to live safely and securely, and he made a point to highlight the toll the violent crime wave has taken on victims.

Luger said that his entire office will be refocusing resources to combat violent crime. He stated every prosecutor in his office will now handle violent crime cases in addition to their other work. Currently, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota employs 42 prosecutors, and Luger said he’s evaluating their budget to try to add five to eight more.

Luger laid out a multi-point approach that will focus on carjackings, shootings and other gun crimes, gangs and illegal weapons and accessories.

Starting now, he said, anyone over the age of 18 engaging in carjacking in Minnesota that involves violence or the threat of violence “will face federal charges that carry stiff sentences.” He emphasized that police, federal law enforcement and the BCA will bring all adult carjacking cases to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution if the cases fit their criteria.

There were over 650 carjackings in Minneapolis in 2021 and over 100 in St. Paul last year, Luger said. He stated that many of the carjacking crimes involve “brutal attacks,” noting that they’re organized and premeditated. In Minneapolis this year there have been 164 carjackings to date, according to the Minneapolis police crime dashboard.

Prosecutions of shootings and gun cases by the U.S. Attorney’s Office will substantially increase, Luger said. “If you have been convicted of a felony and possess a firearm … or purchase a gun for a felon — a crime called straw purchasing — you will be prosecuted [in federal court].”

Desmond Durelle Graham/Sherburne County Jail

Gangs and gang activity are at the root of many of the shootings and violent crime in Minnesota, Luger said. As such, a gang prosecution team has been formed that is focusing on the most violent offenders in our communities, he said.

Lastly, Luger stated the law enforcement partnership will focus on what he referred to as “ghost guns,” or homemade firearms, and auto sears, also known as “switches” that can modify some firearms to shoot automatically.

Luger said the federal partnership strategy has been in place for about a month already. He highlighted several suspects who’ve already been charged with federal crimes, including Desmond Durelle Graham, 32, of Minneapolis who was part of a group who recently carjacked, kidnapped and tortured their victim for hours at an abandoned gas station in the area known as George Floyd Square at East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, according to the charges.

Jay James Olson / Stearns County Jail

Also federally charged is Jay James Olson, 21 of Sauk Rapids. Authorities estimate that Olson sold hundreds of untraceable “ghost guns” that he manufactured from components without serial numbers, and that he also illegally possessed and sold “switches” and suppressors. He’s charged with 16 counts of possessing firearms without serial numbers as well as one count of third-degree narcotics-sale of five kilos or more of marijuana while possessing firearms.

Luger was asked if his office will prosecute juveniles since so many of the carjackings involve minors. He said, “it is difficult to do; we are talking about it, but we’re not there yet.”

Luger said that for now, resources will focus on carjackers over the age of 18 and those who may also be recruiting individuals under the age of 18. “We’re hoping that this warning and this [prosecution] activity causes people to stop.”

– – –

Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.