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Aug. 30—After a night out in Minneapolis, a group of young people headed to St. Paul's Raspberry Island to meet friends — never expecting to find danger.
As 20-year-old Blake Richard Swanson and his girlfriend napped in a vehicle while they waited for their friends, his girlfriend was robbed and Swanson was fatally shot early Sunday, according to the police and a friend who was with them.
Swanson, of Bethel in Anoka County, was an innocent victim, the kind of person "who wouldn't do anything to provoke anybody," said friend Evan Meide.
Meide didn't see what happened in the park on the Mississippi River across from downtown St. Paul. After Meide parked, Swanson and his girlfriend were waiting in the car for other friends to arrive. Meide went to rent an electric scooter, planning to ride around in the area of his car to pass the time.
Meide said he heard a gunshot, but he didn't think it was nearby. He returned to his car, where Swanson's 18-year-old girlfriend was "bawling her eyes out" and she told him, "Blake's been shot," according to Meide.
She had already called 911. They tried putting pressure on Swanson's neck, where they thought the wound was.
"She was woke up to rustling around and to a gun to her face, asking for whatever she's got," Meide said of what Swanson's girlfriend told him.
Police say a suspect climbed in the vehicle, pulled a gun, robbed a female and shot Swanson. The shooting happened about 3:15 a.m. Sunday.
Paramedics took Swanson to Regions Hospital, where he died soon after. No one was under arrest as of Monday.
'NEVER AN ISSUE' AT RASPBERRY ISLAND PREVIOUSLY
Swanson and Meide grew up in St. Francis, Minn. They shared a love of cars that were JDM — Japanese Domestic Market — and recently went to Tennessee to pick up Swanson's dream car, a Nissan 350Z.
"We drove back, no music, just listening to the sound of the car and talking about plans that we want for the future," Meide said.
Swanson, who Meide remembered as outgoing, worked at a car dealership. The young men were inseparable, said Mandy Belille, Meide's mother, who added that Swanson's passion for cars will live on through his friends and the car community.
After they went to a Minneapolis club on Saturday night with a larger group of friends, Meide was ready to go home, but he didn't want to leave them alone. They and other friends have been meeting to hang out at Raspberry Island on recent weekends, Meide said.
"There never was an issue," he said. "Our plan was to finish off that night listening to music, hanging out and talking like usual when the rest of our group arrived."
Swanson's mother wants to raise awareness about safety for young people, said Belille, who said she talked to Swanson's mom on Monday. "They were good kids who were just hanging out," she said. They are urging anyone who saw or heard anything to call the police.
For Meide, the violent loss of his friend has him wondering if they would have been safer if they'd been with a larger group of friends or hadn't gone to the park at all.
"Listen to your gut. Listen to your instincts," he said.
The homicide came during a spike in cases in St. Paul — police launched four investigations, including into Swanson's death, between Sunday at 12:30 a.m. and Monday just before 11 a.m. Police said the cases are unrelated.
There have been 22 homicides in St. Paul this year; there were 21 as of the same time last year.