During a news conference this week announcing a reward in the shooting of a pizza delivery driver, Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder stopped briefly to compose himself as he gave the details of the crime.
"This could be anybody — I delivered pizzas," Elder said. "It's sad that this guy just out doing his job is paying for this and may end up paying for it for the rest of his life."
In many cases, the robbery starts with a ruse: The suspect will request the pizza be delivered to such-and-such address. This wasn't one of those cases, Elder said.
His comments came as police and Domino's Pizza officials announced they were partnering with CrimeStoppers to offer a $10,000 reward for information leading to arrests in the April 5 robbery and shooting. As of Friday afternoon, no arrests had been announced in the case.
Police say would-be robbers tend to place a bogus delivery order to lure their victims. The addresses they give are either fake or belong to an out-of-the-way corner of the city, usually several blocks away from where the suspect is lying in wait.
A high-risk job
For years, pizza delivery drivers appeared on lists of the most dangerous jobs, next to loggers, steel workers and farmers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said with 71 on-the-job deaths, "driver/sales workers," a category that includes delivery drivers, was among a "number of occupations [that] recorded their highest fatality counts" in 2016, the last year for which data are available. Many others were injured, mostly in traffic accidents, experts say.
But there are no reliable statistics for how many drivers are robbed or assaulted nationwide each year.
Minneapolis police don't track how many delivery robberies are logged annually, but said anecdotally that the number of such crimes has remained steady in recent years.
"It's not unheard of, but it's not common thankfully," Elder said. He added that the department was working on an awareness campaign for store owners and employees with advice on how to avoid potentially dangerous encounters while on the job.
Several recent cases underscore the dangers drivers sometimes face while making a delivery. A driver for Paradise Pizza was robbed at gunpoint in the 3600 block of Queen Avenue N. last August. Later that month, a Sarpino's Pizza driver was out on the 3200 block of Humboldt Avenue N. when he was robbed and assaulted by two men. On March 30, a Pizza Luce driver was robbed at gunpoint in the 5700 block of Bossen Terrace. In 2016, a Dulono's driver was shot and critically injured during a robbery.
Residents in neighborhoods with high-crime reputations often complain that certain pizza companies won't deliver to their area out of safety concerns. Franchises in other states have been sued by frustrated customers claiming discrimination.
Shot for less than $18
The 19-year-old victim in last week's shooting remains hospitalized at Hennepin County Medical Center but is recovering, police said.
Police say he had just finished making a delivery in the Elliott Park neighborhood of south Minneapolis. As he was getting into his car, he was confronted by two suspects — described as being in their early to mid-20s and wearing dark-colored sweatshirts — who robbed him, according to police. One of the men pulled a handgun and shot the driver in the head as he tried to drive away, police said. They said he made it about a block before pulling over. A passerby administered first aid until paramedics arrived, said Elder, the police spokesman.
A Domino's official said the victim had less than $18 on him at the time of the robbery, reflecting a franchise policy that encourages employees not to carry more than $20 while making deliveries.
"We knew it could've been anyone that night," Nichole Kesgard, a Domino's manager, said at the news conference.
Libor Jany • 612-673-4064 Twitter: @StribJany