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Minneapolis shooting victim apparently hit by mistake

Jim Adams, Star Tribune

April 12, 2005

Three brothers from Coon Rapids arrived at a south Minneapolis house for a barbecue about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, but the gathering was already over.

"So, we sat around on the front lawn, talking and telling jokes like we always do," said Richie Dunbar, 21. Minutes later, shots rang out across the street. The brothers and two friends ran for Dunbar's car, parked a few doors away in the 3700 block of Oakland Av. S. After piling in, Dunbar looked around and didn't see his older brother, Richmond Eric Dunbar, 29.

"I didn't care if it was firecrackers or shots, I got out to find Eric," Dunbar said. "I ran to the house and saw him on the sidewalk with a gunshot in his head."

While his other brother called 911, Dunbar tried to talk to Eric, who appeared to be unconscious. "His eyes were open," he said. "Those cowards just started shooting bullets at the house he was standing at."

Richmond Eric Dunbar was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he lingered until Sunday night, with a room full of relatives waiting nearby.

It appears that the victim, a Marine veteran, was an innocent bystander, Lt. Lee Edwards said Monday morning.

He said police have no idea what the motive was for the shooting.

Neighbors said they haven't had trouble recently on their block in the Central neighborhood. Larry Ashley, who said he heard three shots, pointed to a bullet hole in the siding of the house of the neighbor who had the barbecue. "Nobody knows the reason," he said. "He might come back and do it again."

Police don't know who the intended target was, said Capt. Rich Stanek, but "there is no indication [the shooting] was random."

Emmet Dunbar, 26, who also heard the shots, said he and his brother, the victim, whom they called Eric, emigrated to the United States with their father in 1991 to escape a civil war in Liberia that had claimed the life of another brother.

Their father, Richard Dunbar, died in 1992, and the children lived with their mother in Texas until 1996. Then they moved to the Twin Cities, Emmet said.

One of 12 siblings, Eric Dunbar served six years in the U.S. Marines before being honorably discharged in 2001, said his sister, Ellen Dunbar, 39, who helped raise him. Then he earned a degree in music production engineering from Musictech College in St. Paul. He loved mixing and producing audio tracks in his bedroom studio, she said. His job was assembling workout equipment at Life Time Fitness in Coon Rapids.

Richie Dunbar said Eric got his clothes at a dollar store but bought the best mixing and audio equipment he could find for his studio, called Special Forces Entertainment, which he dreamed of building into a big moneymaker by producing hip-hop music.

"He loved music [and] this country," he added, noting that his brother will be buried in his Marine dress uniform.

He said Eric liked listening to CNN news and commentator Bill O'Reilly. He often brought up political or other topics to debate at dinner with his more liberal siblings, Richie said. Eric was proud of being a Marine and fighting for America's freedoms, especially free speech, which they didn't have in Liberia, Richie said.

He added, "He told us, 'I would die so you guys can speak your mind.' "

Jim Adams is at jadams@startribune.com

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