The Minneapolis school community is finding ways to come together in mourning and support after a string of gun violence on the city's North Side took a 15-year-old student's life and injured a bus driver on Wednesday.
Deshaun Hill, a sophomore at North Community High School, died Thursday, a day after he was found with a gunshot wound near the intersection of Golden Valley Road and Penn Avenue N.
His uncle said the family believes the teen — who was just a month shy of his 16th birthday — was walking from school when he was shot. Police said Hill was near a bus stop when the shooting happened. A 911 caller reported seeing a group of young people scatter after the shot rang out.
"Living in north Minneapolis, I find myself at a loss for words, which is something I'm hearing others say a lot more often these days, too," said Sharon El-Amin, the school board member who represents the North Side.
By Friday morning, the yellow crime scene tape blocking the intersection was long gone and a blue balloon fluttered in the chilly breeze above a bouquet of roses taped to a traffic light pole.
Across the street sits Wally's, a popular convenience store adorned with a mural of Minneapolis luminaries, including Tyler Johnson, an NFL player who was a standout quarterback at North Community High School.
Johnson, who won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, acknowledged the violence in an Instagram story, where he posted a photo of Hill with the caption: "RIP YOUNG KING."
Hill was described as an all-around athlete, but football was the "apple of his eye," according to a GoFundMe page set up for his family. He took over the starting quarterback role on North's powerful varsity football team last year and his coaches said they were impressed by the sophomore's work ethic and quiet leadership.
Minneapolis 4th Precinct Inspector Charlie Adams got to know Hill through his second job as an assistant coach for North's football team. He said he last spoke to Hill last week about a leg injury that wasn't diagnosed until after the season.
"It showed you how tough he was — he tried to play through it," Adams said.
Hill is at least the fourth former North High football player killed over the past four years.
North High's basketball team plans to honor Hill at its next home basketball game at 1 p.m. Saturday, the team said on its Instagram page.
"This is a moment we can lean on each other and find the good out of all that has happened this week," El-Amin said. "That collective body of support has been the glue that's keeping us together. We are all feeling the same grief, but we all still have hope and we all know that we have to show up."
Hill also played youth football for Creekview Recreation Center in north Minneapolis. Former teammates and their parents posted photos and remembrances of Hill, who went by D. Hill.
DeVon Nolen, whose son played football at Creekview with Hill, said the teen was quiet and "sweet-spirited," but also a natural leader from an early age.
"He carried hope for so many young people in our community," Nolen said. "People from the outside tell us that we're not worth anything and we're not going to amount to anything, and that can permeate your psyche and you start to believe that it's true. [Hill] took his role seriously as being that beacon of hope."
Nolen choked back tears as she said all who knew Hill want the same things for the young people they care about: "We want them to grow up and have bright futures and build for the next generation, but our boys are only living to be 15."
Mayor Jacob Frey released a brief statement Friday saying that he had spoken to Adams, who described the teen as a "strong, selfless leader both on and off the field."
Less than two hours after Hill was taken to the hospital Wednesday, a Minneapolis bus driver was wounded by gunfire while taking young children home from school. Students, parents and staff at the Sheridan Dual Language Elementary School have since pulled together to support the devoted driver, who is expected to survive.
The shooting occurred about 2:15 p.m. near the intersection of N. 37th and Girard avenues, where a bullet went through the front windshield of the bus and hit the driver in the cheek, police said. Three children under 10 years old also on the bus were not hurt. They were taken home by police.
A spokeswoman with the Metropolitan Transportation Network, which employed the driver and contracts with Minneapolis Public Schools, said the man is expected to recover. She added that she couldn't comment on the investigation. The police and the school district have not identified the man.
Stina Kielsmeier-Cook said her daughter's fourth-grade class and the Spanish immersion school made get-well cards and posters for the driver. A student march is also being planned at the school, she said.
Kielsmeier-Cook, who also has a first-grader at Sheridan, added that "every grade and every teacher has been responding differently based on the age of the students involved, in terms of how they are talking about it."
While neither of Kielsmeier-Cook's children ride the bus that was hit by gunfire, she said the driver has made a positive impression in two years serving the school at the corner of NE. University and Broadway avenues. He wasn't a native Spanish speaker but practiced his Spanish so he could talk to the kids — counting "uno, dos, tres" — as they boarded the bus.
"We've had a bus driver shortage through the school system," she said, "and he's been consistent since the beginning of the school year, which is amazing."
The Sheridan PTO is raising money to help the driver.
"Our community will band together to show our support in the face of this sadness," the PTO posted on the fundraising page.
Hill's death continued a bloody start to 2022. Minneapolis logged two other killings Thursday, when two men were found shot to death inside a car in the Willard-Hay neighborhood.
While other crime categories have leveled off or decreased, the pace of homicides and nonfatal shootings has continued. Minneapolis has had eight homicides so far this year, compared with the four at this time in 2021, the second deadliest year on record.