Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

This has to stop, these shootings July 19, 2017

Positive words posted near a garden in the heart of downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


SOMETIMES I COME across an article and accompanying video so profound that I am moved not to tears, but to sobbing.

Often I read those stories in Minnesota Public Radio blogger Bob Collins’ NewsCut column. He rates as one of my favorite writers for his ability to ferret out those stories that touch human emotions. You won’t necessarily see top news stories of the day featured online in NewsCut. But you will read stories that are deeply human, that elicit thought and emotions.

Sometimes Bob makes me laugh. Sometimes cry. Sometimes shake my head. And, almost always, he makes me think. His stories prompt plenty of reader interaction. Whether I agree with comments or not, I always find them interesting.

On Monday Bob published a story and linked to a video in a piece titled A wellness check by police ends with a son dead. The headline grabbed my attention. But it was the video of a grieving father that twisted my gut and made me cry in the deep sort of painful way that heaves your shoulders and unleashes primeval wailing.

In summary, the Massachusetts man’s 26-year-old son, despondent over a break-up with his girlfriend, holed himself up in his room with his dog and a gun. Police were called as was the SWAT Team. The parents were ushered from their home, the father pleading with police to just let his son sleep and to not over-react. I would encourage you to read the entire story and watch the video by clicking here.


I purchased this retro tray at an antique/vintage shop in St. Charles for its simple message. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Admittedly, I came to this story with emotions on edge after the police shooting of Justine Damond, 40, in an affluent south Minneapolis neighborhood late Saturday evening. She called 911 to report a suspected assault in an alley by her home, her family says. The death of this Australian woman, who moved to Minnesota several years ago to be nearer her fiance’, has triggered outrage and world-wide attention. And rightly so. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is now investigating the shooting of the unarmed, pajama clad Justine. Few details have been released. The police officer who shot Justine in the abdomen has thus far refused to be interviewed. Justine’s death continues to top the news in Twin Cities media.

Nearly every evening I turn on the 10 o’clock TV news to hear of another shooting in the Twin Cities. A drive-by, a targeted victim, a domestic and, yes, more and more, a fatal shooting by a police officer.

All of this leaves me wondering. Why? Why so much gun violence? Why the increase in fatal shootings by law enforcement officers?


Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.


Repeatedly, I hear of the need for more officer training. A recently-passed Minnesota state law requires police officers to receive specialized de-escalation, mental health and implicit bias training beginning in July 2018. In my county, that training is already happening and may have factored into a positive outcome for a 61-year-old local man who last week threatened suicide. He survived his crisis when police responded.

With increased societal awareness and openness, we’re seeing an attitude shift in handling of suicide threats and other mental health related calls to police like the one in Massachusetts. Common sense should tell you not to roll in with an excessive show of force and upset an already struggling individual. Lights, sound, action may work in Hollywood, but not necessarily in reality.


Sidewalk poetry in downtown Northfield, Minnesota, carries a powerful message. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.


We can choose to remain calm, to listen to one another, to be compassionate and caring, whether we are a neighbor, a family member, a police officer or a stranger. I know that’s not always easy in a fluid and tense situation.

But something has to change. Too many people are dying due to gun violence in their homes, in alleys, along city streets, on sidewalks…from Minnesota to Massachusetts.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


18 Responses to “This has to stop, these shootings”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    It is so difficult to understand when violence of any kind occurs but when it appears to be totally unwarranted given the circumstances (or at least what we know) it really gets even more difficult. Praying for peace.

  2. My thought is when did shoot come before asking questions in certain situations. I am sure it is not easy being a law enforcement officer with body cameras, having to make those split second decisions on restraint, using a taser and/or shooting and the general negativity towards them. I also do not think we hear the whole what went down along with both sides of the stories in these incidents. It is sad and tragic as well as scary. I am all for protection and safety as well as peaceful kindness and compassion. Thanks for bringing this to light today to think about and discuss.

  3. Valerie Says:

    Wow, what a difficult article to read…
    There is too much violence in our world. It’s so sad.

  4. Hi today they talked about the large noise ..before he shot across the car -near his partner into the woman. Why is no one talking about that as well ..He also put the life of his partner in jeopardy? and everyone knows we are still having loud firecrackers still being set off…so I just don’t get it. What a waste of a person trying to make the world better. Plus the idea of putting two younger inexperienced cops together aren’t we suppossed to be mixing seasoned policemen with the younger ones. A Lot of bad decisions connected to this one.

    • All of these are valid points. Thank you for detailing them here. I’ve read/heard others raise every single one of these points and I’ve had the same thoughts myself as more information has been released in the case.

      Specifically, I refer you to the thread in a post published today on NewsCut: http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2017/07/something-isnt-quite-right-here/

      I’ve read the comments posted through mid-morning and the same issues you raise are brought up here.

      • My neighbors were talking about it tonight while we watched the army helicoptor stay in one place over our houses this evening-spooked everyone. When calling in a 911 do we stay in our houses till the police knock on our doors or do we meet in the alley…it was dark as well -but still no one knows what is a safe protocol for call ins.

      • That’s a good question: Stay in the house or go outside? In light of what’s just happened, I expect most people would be inclined to stay in their homes.

        I live an hour south of Minneapolis. Several times (not in recent years), I’ve had to call police. Not once did police come to my door to talk to me nor did I receive follow-up calls. They responded to and handled the situations and then left.

        Why was an Army helicopter hovering over your home? That would frighten me, too.

      • The helicoptor hovered above s.Minneapolis, supposedly because it was doing a drill …but it seemed like they could of been doing more than that. Probably for an hour or hour and half it was above our houses. It was strange. do you remember 2 years ago or so when it happenned downtown Mpls and St.Paul suppossedly doing drills that day too. didn’t warn anyone…media ,,,police,,,fire -no one knew what was going on. stupid. we were burglared once and the police came to our back door. Luckily not too much trouble in my neighborhood.

      • OK, that is really odd and seems that it would be more than a drill given the length of time it lingered. I understand your concern. And, yes, I do remember the “drills” of several years ago.

        I am sorry your home was burglarized. One of my uncles, who also lives in south Minneapolis, awoke one night to a noise, started down the stairs and encountered a burglar. Fortunately he suffered only minor injuries during that crime.

      • Wow Im sorry that happened I can’t stand people that think this is a form of work or do it for the thrill. I’m going to stop in the coffee shop and see if anything was written up on the drils…in the papers. I think the helecoptors were weird. As with the other time they did it after something happened somewhere else (probably with terrorism) and then tied it in with that . But really it just added to everyone’s agitation. Where does you uncle live? I’m near Matt’s bar..home of the Juicy Lucy. My neighborhood goes in and out of trouble . Maybe it ‘s because not everyone has security systems…Oh well nice talking with you. Therese

      • Let me know if you learn anything about that hovering helicopter.

        I’m not really all that familiar with Minneapolis; I try to avoid it. But my uncle lives on Dupont Avenue South.

  5. Audrey, Your profound compassion is flowing from this page.
    Yes, this is the answer, not guns, not hate, not judgment, not even a class on guns.
    No class can teach love, compassion, kindness.
    The answers & solutions are much deeper than that.

    xxx love from Duluth.

    • My heart aches to read your comment because I know from whence your words flow, from the murder of your sister. No one should have to endure what you and your family have lived since the day Kay was shot to death.

      Much love from Faribault…

  6. It’s a heartbreaking world that we live in. So many people with entitlement issues and no respect for self, others, or the law.

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