Police arrest two men for assault, murders

Sarah McKenzie

Minneapolis police arrested two men who allegedly robbed a 43-year-old woman near Mariucci Arena Friday afternoon in what police believe to be part of a larger crime spree.
Judith Sims, a television producer from Falcon Heights, was riding a mountain bike near the transitway when the two men allegedly approached her and took her bike, said University Police Detective Charles Miner.
Police connect the two suspects involved in the alleged robbery of Sims with other crimes in the area: a double murder in northeast Minneapolis and a stabbing near the Salvation Army shelter in downtown Minneapolis.
Police arrested Robert Jackson, 24, and Frank Mendoza, 30, outside a downtown shelter in a blue minivan Saturday night. Jackson has no permanent address; Mendoza is from Missouri.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office formally charged Jackson and Mendoza with two counts of second degree murder, one count of second degree assault and one count of attempted aggravated robbery Tuesday.
The two suspects allegedly first targeted Sims around 5 p.m. More than three hours later, Juan Esquibl, 38, was stabbed in front of the Salvation Army shelter downtown. He is being treated at the Hennepin County Medical Center.
And at approximately 10 p.m., James J. Branby, 46, and Donald L. Pyle, 38, were stabbed to death outside of Arone’s Bar in northeast Minneapolis.
Sims said she was hurriedly biking home from Wilson library, hoping to avoid ominous storm clouds when the men allegedly robbed her of her bike and two library books.
She said she was about one block away from the hockey arena when a van stopped in front of her. “I could tell something was weird immediately. My adrenaline was pumping,” Sims said.
The men threatened to sic a grey German shepherd on Sims if she didn’t turn over her bike, she said.
A family from Red Lake drove up in a van and aided Sims after the incident. “I was really lucky there were a lot of people around,” Sims said. She said she suspected that the men were capable of violence. In light of the fate of the other victims, Sims said the family “really saved my butt.”
Sims’ screams also alerted Institute of Technology junior Matt Kahle, an employee at the hockey arena, and two of his co-workers before they finished their shift.
Kahle said he saw the suspects drive into the Hawkeye parking lot in a light blue minivan. They then drove over a curb in the parking lot to flee the area, Kahle said.
According to police reports, the van had Arkansas license plates and was reported stolen.
“She was pretty shook up,” Kahle said of Sims. He and two other Mariucci employees, along with the family from Red Lake, stayed with Sims until police arrived.
Miner said University Police are working closely with Minneapolis Police to construct a time line of events in the weekend rampage.
Miner said no other incidents occurred on campus related to the spree.
“We are fortunate it was an isolated incident,” Miner said.

In other police news:
ù Police arrested a 38-year-old man for stealing wine from the Natural Resources Administration building on the St. Paul campus Friday afternoon.
St. Paul resident Robert Lyle was arrested after employees from the College of Natural Resources confronted him in their lounge area with stolen items in his backpack.
Police told employees of the college that Lyle had a history of illegal activity on campus.
University police could not be reached for comment.
Marty Moen, a communications coordinator for the college, said the bottles of wine found in Lyle’s backpack belonged to the college.
The college hosts a number of events and parties. Moen said the college stores bottles of wine because it is cheaper to buy the alcohol in bulk.
A staff member approached Lyle after spotting him rummaging through the cupboards in the staff lounge. Lyle said he planned to meet someone in the lounge, but failed to produce the names of any employees, Moen said.
Employees detained Lyle until authorities arrived and arrested him.