Mara H. Gottfried, Twin Cities, January 28, 2015
A group of young men assaulted two men in a downtown St. Paul skyway last week, bloodying the face of a 23-year-old and breaking the wrist of a 59-year-old who walks with a cane.
Both victims said Tuesday that they hadn’t known the suspects and they believed the attack was gang-related. St. Paul police are investigating why it happened and who the suspects are, said Steve Linders, a department spokesman.
About the time of the skyway beatings last week, another man reported an assault at a nearby light-rail station downtown, though a Metro Transit spokesman didn’t have information about whether they were connected.
Thomas Klein, 23, was walking through the skyway and ran into a co-worker, who he said jumped on his back jokingly. A group of seven to eight young men ran up and asked Klein if he wanted them to beat up the man, according to Klein. He told them “no,” explaining that the man was his friend.
People in the group appeared to be recording the men with their cellphones, and Klein said he politely asked them to stop.
“Next thing I know, I got hit in the face,” Klein said. He fell to the ground. He said his tooth cut through his cheek, leaving his face bloodied and swollen.
He didn’t seek medical attention.
Klein noticed that the people who attacked him all wore red, which led him to believe they were in a gang. He estimated they ranged in age from 17 to their mid-20s; one had facial tattoos with lettering under and above his eyes.
“I think they were just looking for people to jump and start a fight,” Klein said.
Klein was walking with David, a 59-year-old friend who said he didn’t want to give his full name because he works with homeless youths on his own, not through an organization, and “the only way they’ll keep trusting me is if I stay invisible.”
David estimated six people were involved in the assault and said the young men “jumped me from behind,” hitting him in the head and face. He said he fell down and got up three times before they stomped on his wrist while he was on the ground.
The suspects were wearing red coats with black stripes and were 16 to 20 years old, David estimated. A friend of his who tries to get young people out of gangs in Minneapolis called him after the assault, saying he’d heard what happened and had been told it was a gang initiation, David said.
Klein and David are white and said the suspects were African-American. Both men said they didn’t regard the assaults as racially motivated. “I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” David said.