Police have arrested two teenage suspects and are still searching for a third in connection with a string of attempted carjackings in Edina and St. Louis Park earlier this month.
The juveniles are accused of targeting drivers in back-to-back incidents outside Lunds & Byerlys stores on Dec. 9. The first occurred just after 3 p.m. in St. Louis Park, where the suspects unsuccessfully attempted to wrestle a man out of his vehicle before fleeing.
Less than two hours later, the group approached and violently beat a motorist outside the grocery store on W. 50th Street in Edina. Three people were injured and one was hospitalized as a result of the attack.
Authorities caught the suspects on Thursday, one week after police released surveillance images of the assailants and both agencies offered $5,000 rewards for information in the case. Those rewards remain in place for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the third suspect.
The unidentified teens are awaiting charges at the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center. Their ages were not immediately available. The Star Tribune generally doesn't name juveniles or those who have yet to be formally charged with a crime.
Local police departments have stepped up patrols in recent weeks as part of a joint operation between metro law enforcement agencies to crack down on a surge of brazen robberies that have spread to the Twin Cities suburbs. Many cases involve youth commandeering vehicles at gunpoint — often in retail parking lots.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman on Monday vowed to ramp up prosecution of such cases, as communities continue to be roiled by the attacks in broad daylight. Minneapolis police have recorded at least 610 carjackings so far this year alone.
Freeman's office announced Friday that it would prosecute two teenagers accused of a string of carjacking-related offenses as adults. A 17-year-old Brooklyn Park boy and 18-year-old Raveyan Smith of Minneapolis each pleaded guilty this week to four counts of first-degree aggravated robbery. Both are facing at least seven years in prison.
"Our office is committed to prosecuting carjacking cases submitted to us to the fullest extent of the law," Freeman said in a statement. "We take these matters seriously, and are doing everything in our power to ensure those who commit violent felony offenses are punished for their infractions."
As the spate of robberies continues to spread outside the urban core, neighboring agencies are banding together to share intelligence and establish a regional response to apprehend culprits.
On Friday, a group of mayors, police chiefs and city managers from five southwestern suburbs gathered to discuss strategies to address the uptick in property crime and vehicle thefts leaving their residents on edge.
"When one city experiences an increase in crime, it affects all of us," the mayors of the mayors of Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Edina, Minnetonka and Plymouth said in a joint statement. "Together, we are committed to protecting our residents and preserving the high quality-of-life every person deserves."
Staff writers Kim Hyatt and Shannon Prather contributed to this report.