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St. Paul mayor, police chief, attorneys discuss east side violence

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Beating incident locations Beating incident locations
Jesse Sagawa Jesse Sagawa
Jesse Sagawa Jesse Sagawa
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

In the wake of a near-fatal beating that left a 26-year-old resident in a weeklong coma, city officials in St. Paul will hold a Tuesday afternoon meeting to discuss the recent violence on the city's east side.

Little over a week after a brutal beating of a pedestrian and less than a mile away from that attack, about a dozen young girls were involved in a fist fight near the intersection Edgerton Street and Lawson Avenue on Monday night.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman plans to meet with St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith, St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi to discuss ways to curb what neighbors see as an escalating trend.

Whether it's perception or reality, Jesse Sagawa told FOX 9 he sees parallels between the assault he endured while walking home on the Fourth of July and the one that took place the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood just nine days ago.

He already has a scar over his right eye and scabs all over his body to remind him, but the most recent attack conjures frightening memories of his brutal encounter with a group of teenagers.

"Very scary and traumatizing," he said. "I'm still scared -- kind of frustrated that I had to move and possibly change schools."

Sagawa was walking home with four friends after watching the fireworks in downtown St. Paul when they passed a group of 30 to 40 mostly young, black people hanging out near the corner of 3rd and Cypress.

"My good friend was behind us. They hit him first," Sagawa recalled. "One person called out, 'Get the white kids!' They just started hitting us."

Sagawa said members of the group were armed with a metal baseball bat and at least one box cutter, and they attacked him and his friends for several minutes, knocking out five of his front teeth, stealing his cell phone and sending him to the hospital to get 15 stitches.

Although he admitted knowing the neighborhood "wasn't too good," Sagawa told FOX 9 News he still thought of it as a nice place overall.

"There are still bad things, but you never think it's going to happen to you," Sagawa said.

Yet, it did -- and just about a mile away from where 26-year-old Ray Widstrand was nearly beaten to death while trying to walk past a group of young gang members fighting in the street near his home.

Residents in the neighborhood worry that roaming groups of young people are making the neighborhood more violent, and they want to know if the crimes are racially motivated and what police plan to do to stop it.

Just a day before city leaders met for their meeting, the Ramsey County Attorney's Office released a statement to address rumors swirling in the area that the recent assault of Ray Widstrand was a hate crime, saying there is currently "no information from police investigators that racial bias was a motivating factor."


READ THE FULL STATEMENT: http://bit.ly/13yhpzu


So far, four people -- one man and three teens -- have been arrested in connection with the Widstrand assault. No arrests were made in the assault Sagawa endured.

Issac Maiden has been charged with felony first-degree assault in connection with the incident. A 17-year-old and two 15-year-olds were all charged with four felony charges, two counts of crimes the benefit of a gang and one count each of first-degree assault and aggravated first-degree robbery.

Investigators say more arrests could be coming.

Even so, many members of the community have criticized the St. Paul Police Department and Mayor Chris Coleman for not acting aggressively against the East Side Boyz and their younger sect, the Ham Crazy Gang.

Widstrand spent eight days in a coma at a nearby hospital, but doctors expect he will have serious brain injuries in the wake of the attack. He has already undergone two surgeries and remains in stable but critical condition.

A memorial growing at the corner of Minnehaha and Preble serves as a reminder that the community has hardly forgotten the events of Aug. 4. Smith plans to meet with neighbors at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at Arlington Lutheran to address their concerns.

"Quite frankly, we've been able to track several instances and we have taken steps to address the issue," St. Paul Police Spokesman Howie Padilla told FOX 9 News. "We are looking forward, quite frankly, to talking with our community on Thursday to talk about any additional steps we are able to take."

For his part, Sagawa says he's already had enough. He moved to St. Louis Park and may leave Metro State University. For now, the future teacher hopes others in his old neighborhood learn a lesson from his experience.

"If there is nothing done, it could happen a lot," he warned. "Not just in that neighborhood, but to anybody."

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