2 years after mom shot in gang crossfire on Mpls Eat Street, forensics ID suspected gunman

More than two years after a mom and physician's assistant was caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting on Minneapolis’ popular Eat Street, authorities were able to charge the suspected triggerman thanks to some remarkable forensics and dogged investigative work.

"My family and I will never be the same people again. My son will never have the same mom," the woman, Amber, recently told FOX 9’s Paul Blume during an interview at her home. She asked to only use her first name for privacy and safety concerns.

Amber, who lost her career in the medical field, and nearly lost her life, has never shared her story and struggles publicly before.

"I had no idea going to dinner that I would end up shot and almost dying, and my life was going to be changed forever," she said.

The shooting unfolded on the evening of June 29, 2021, along Nicollet Avenue on a block dotted with ethnic restaurants. Amber and a friend were heading home from an early summer evening meal together. Amber recalls spotting a group of young men hanging out on the sidewalk in front of Tobacco and Mas, what was then a troubled corner, when the gunfire erupted.

"And all of a sudden, we heard pop, pop, pop," recalled Amber. "I immediately knew it was shooting."

Amber grabbed her companion's hand to run, but only made it a few steps before collapsing to the ground.

"So, it was like an explosion in my back, just a blinding pain. I dropped like a ton of bricks," said Amber. "I was immediately paralyzed on my upper half, face down."

Amber was struck by a single bullet that tore through her shoulder blade, dissecting her carotid artery, and collapsing her lung on its devastating path into her jaw.

"We are looking to see if there was an exit wound. And I was just in excruciating pain, just like, let's get to the hospital. I knew the clock was ticking," said Amber, who was a practicing physician's assistant at the time. She immediately knew her situation was dire.

"I lay there for a couple of minutes, unable to move," recounted Amber. "And then I started bleeding out of my mouth and I knew that things were definitely serious. And as a former medical provider, I just started thinking about what kind of internal damage I could have and that I very possibly was dying."

She continued, "Then I thought of my 2-year-old immediately and just thought like, how sad that would be for him to have to tell everyone that his mom died when he was two."

Emergency responders rushed Amber to HCMC. Her mindset was to fight, to live for her young son and husband.

"To be shot completely through your neck and survive, I guess I am lucky in that sense," she told Blume.

What followed was constant, agonizing pain. Amber explained that she struggled miserably with her physical and emotional healing including regaining movement on her paralyzed left side. It would take several months before her medical team surgically removed the bullet lodged in her jaw.

"They were able to remove it by making an incision under the back of my tongue through my mouth, which was kind of a miserable recovery," explained Amber, who had no idea that a damaged bullet, responsible for so much suffering would eventually assist authorities in charging the suspected gunman who fired the near-fatal shot.

"We want to hold people accountable who are willing to use guns against other individuals," said Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty.

It turns out, the bullet was the final piece in a complicated puzzle, involving forensic science, a fingerprint on a discarded soda can at the scene, surveillance video, a bright purple handgun, and another shooter willing to name names.

"So, it is putting all of that together," said Moriarty. "And we see that in investigations now that with all the technology, the forensics, it's important to have investigators who have the knowledge to put all of that together and so that we can get a case like this and be able to prosecute it."

Fingerprints on the discarded Pepsi can ultimately matched to a suspect by the name of Marion Ware. Ware was seen on video outside the tobacco shop, shooting at occupants of a passing Honda Accord, who fired first. Police eventually arrested Ware with a gun that matched ballistics at the scene. Ware is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence for his role.

A second suspect, James Patterson is awaiting sentencing in the case. He is currently in prison for other crimes and according to court records, is cooperating with prosecutors. Patterson identified a third shooter by the name of Kentarios Franklin, describing his crew as a "street gang" along Nicollet Avenue. In charging documents, Patterson reported Franklin raised up and fired from a distinctive purple Smith and Wesson handgun just as Amber and her friend attempted to cross the street.

In a bit of good fortune for law enforcement, Crystal police randomly recovered a purple handgun during a traffic stop and arrest in August 2021, just a couple of months after Amber was nearly killed. The weapon was loaded, with the serial number scratched off. Nothing in the case file suggests the motorist had anything to do with Amber’s shooting, but when it was test-fired, rounds matched discarded casings and other evidence collected near that Nicollet Avenue tobacco shop that had been uploaded to a national ballistic information portal.

With the gun confirmed, that bullet from Amber’s jaw, and a suspect name, it was now up to forensic analysis to connect the final dots inside the Minneapolis crime lab.

For Amber and investigators, the questions boiled down to this, was the bullet surgically removed from Amber’s jaw, unequivocally fired by the purple handgun recovered during the traffic stop? And did authorities now have enough evidence to arrest Franklin for the devastating shooting?

The answer to both, yes, allowing prosecutors to pursue first-degree assault charges against Franklin more than two years after Amber’s life was forever altered.

"I still suffer from PTSD. I have severe anxiety, irritability, nightmares," Amber stated.

Franklin’s case is now working its way through the courts. His next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 10 as Amber continues her healing journey.

"You know, justice is important. Obviously, the most important thing for me is for no one else to get hurt in that way," concluded Amber, who has a whole mix of emotions on these latest charges and the prison consequences for those involved in the senseless exchange of gunfire. It is believed Amber was the only one struck by a bullet that evening though FOX 9 was not able to track down any information on those in the Honda Accord, who initiated the shooting.

Amber told Blume, despite her catastrophic injuries, she is pregnant and is expecting a second child in the new year. She has not been able to return to work. If you would like to help Amber, some friends have circulated a GoFundMe page to help with ongoing medical care and expenses.