Minnetonka High School junior killed in St. Paul alley shooting

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Samantha Burnette

Minnetonka High School student Samantha Burnette has been identified as the teenage girl shot and killed in St. Paul over the weekend, the school district confirmed. Burnette died at the scene of the shooting -- an alley on the 700 block of Sims Avenue -- at about 7:30 a.m.  Sunday.

This is the second death of a Minnetonka student in just 5 days. On the morning of Sept. 21, 17-year-old Scott Berzins was struck by a car while crossing Highway 7 in Minnetonka.

St. Paul police said a second victim of Sunday’s shooting – another young woman -- was taken to Regions Hospital for treatment. Witnesses said a third young woman was also present, but not injured. Police have made two arrests in connection with the shooting.

Message from Minnetonka Principal Jeff Erickson

Dear Minnetonka School Community,

I am shocked and saddened to report a second Minnetonka student death in less than one week.  Words cannot express our sorrow after learning that the young teen who was shot and killed in St. Paul Sunday morning was one of our students. Samantha Burnette was a junior -- only 16 years old.

Just this morning, I shared the following with students:

Samantha Burnette was a junior -- only 16 years old.  There are still so many unanswered questions. The police are still investigating and so far, there has been no arrest. There is nothing about this tragedy that makes any sense.

Hearing about Samantha’s death breaks my heart. We don’t usually think about death as something that happens to teens -- so to have two classmates die in the last week, leaves us confused.  It really shakes our understanding of how things are supposed to be.

Whether or not you personally knew Samantha, we know it is not fair that such a young, energetic person was killed so senselessly.

We all deal with grief differently.  Hearing about her death may make you angry or sad or just numb. As I told you last week, I want you to know that every adult in our school is here for you and is someone with whom you can talk.

During tough times, it is important for us to be intentional about taking care of our emotional health. I’d like everyone to take a few moments to consider two questions:

1.    Think about or write down the names of people you feel comfortable talking to -- people in school and people outside of school.  Who are the adults that provide you support and a listening ear?

2.    Next, I’d ask you to think about or write down things you do when you feel sad or upset -- you might go for a run, talk to a friend, or listen to music.

If you feel that you are struggling or have a friend who is struggling, please talk with a teacher or your counselor to help support you. Be intentional about talking to people and doing things to take care of your emotions.  There is a lot to process. 

Tonka, we are a strong community and we need to use this strength to look after and care for each other.   Along with each staff member, I am saddened by this loss.  We care for you, and we are here to support you.

My thoughts and prayers are with Samantha, her family and friends.

Please join me in a moment of silence in memory of Samantha Lea Burnette.

As I have more information, I will share it with you.

Thank you.

Last week, I shared a handout with you on helping your teen through grief.  I can't stress how important it is that you be present for your teen. Just let them know you love them and you are there if they want to talk.

The website Griefspeaks.com has some very important points for parents and teachers. “The death of a friend may significantly affect young people in ways that parents, teachers and other adults may not understand. The death of a friend whom the parent never or seldom met may have very little effect on the parent, but it may have a huge impact on the teen. When adults dismiss the impact of their teenager's grief it only makes it more complicated and often leaves the teen alone in his or her grief. … Some teens following the death of a friend, come together and share their grief while other teens grieve alone or have difficulty sharing their emotions around their loss."

Many people have asked me about arrangements for Scott Berzins.  I’ve been in touch with his family and plans are being finalized.  I will share more later.

This has been a very hard week and, now more than ever, your child needs your love, support, and quiet understanding.

Please let me know how we can help.


Jeff Erickson

How you can help

A fund has been created for the Berzins and Burnette families to help cover expenses following the deaths of their children this week. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank (please use the Berzins or Burnette family name), via online banking for Wells Fargo Bank customers (account #1422246015), or may be dropped off or mailed to Minnetonka High School, 18301 Highway 7, Minnetonka, MN 55345.