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Shooting investigation begins
By Dan Olson
Minnesota Public Radio
August 2, 2002


A Hennepin County sheriff's spokeswoman says it will be weeks before they know what led to the killing last night of a Minneapolis police officer and a resident of a south Minneapolis high rise apartment building. Officer Melissa Schmidt died from a gunshot wound after she and her partner responded to a call from the Horn Towers complex that a resident had a gun. The resident, sixty year old Martha Donald died in the altercation.

Minneapolis police officers
Minneapolis police officers gather outside the Hennepin County Medical Center, waiting for word on the condition of officer Melissa Schmidt, who was shot Thursday evening. Schmidt died several hours after the incident at a housing complex in south Minneapolis. A female suspect in the shooting was also killed. Police are not yet sure what led to the shooting.
(MPR Photo/Art Hughes)

Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson said the two Minneapolis police officers responded to a call a woman had a gun at the Horn Towers complex. Olson said the woman asked the officers if she could use the bathroom. It wasn't immediately known whether the officers searched Donald before they escorted her into the bathroom. It's not clear what happened after that, and who shot first.

Officer Melissa Schmidt, a Marine veteran and a native of Bloomer, Wis., was wounded in the abdomen, just below her bulletproof vest. She died four hours later at Hennepin County Medical Center with her family at her side. The woman involved in the incident, Martha Donald, 60, also died at the hospital.

Chief Olson talked with reporters early Friday at Minneapolis City Hall.

"One of ours has died and I ask our citizens for their prayers, for Melissa's family and prayers for these men and women who do such good work for you," Olson said.

Martha Donald's son, Terrance Jones, says he can't understand what led to the shooting. He says his mother, a native of Little Rock, Ark., had lived and worked in Chicago for years. He said she moved to the Twin Cities a few years ago after her husband died and money became tight.

"She never really had any kind of mental disabilities or complications. She never had drug issues, where she was on drugs or anything like that," he said.

Jones also said he didn't believe his mother was on any kind of mind-altering medication.

"The only medication I'm aware my mom was taking was a blood pressure pill."

Later, Jones told the Associated Press he learned that his mother owned a gun. He says she was the victim of a beating at her job in Chicago.

"My mom isn't the kind of person that would take a gun and pull it on any kind of human being. I mean, that's just not her," he said.

Terrance Jones said his mother was outgoing, a church member who attended services and bible study regularly.

"She loved doing things with people, and that's part of why it's so hard for me to believe, and understand what has transpired," Jones said.

Flags outside all city buildings, including the Minneapolis 5th Precinct station where officer Melissa Schmidt worked, were flying at half staff. Officers wore black bands of mourning on their badges.

The officer with Schmidt was placed on three-day administrative leave, which is routine after an officer is involved in a shooting. She was not injured. Turning the investigation over to the sheriff's department is also routine when the police department is involved in a shooting.

Schmidt, 35, had been with the department for six years. She had worked as a community crime prevention officer before switching to the public housing patrol in February.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak had plans to visit Horn Towers Friday afternoon to talk with residents about the shooting. He encouraged Minneapolis residents to give their support to city police officers.

"So often, every day, you think of us all in a circle - and standing around the outside protecting all of us are the cops," Rybak said. "Right now, as the cops come together and all the people in the Minneapolis Police Department try to support themselves, I think it's important for us to stand around the outside of them and support them."

Police say the funeral for officer Schmidt will be early next week. Her parents have lived in Dresser, Wis., for about six years. Schmidt worked as a police officer in Bloomer before joining the Marine Corps, where she spent four years before joining the Minneapolis police department.