St. Paul police chief speaks with FOX 9 about unprecedented gun violence in city

One person was killed in a shooting early Friday morning in St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood

2019 has become the deadliest year for St. Paul in more than a decade.

Wednesday, FOX 9 sat down, one-on-one, with St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell who tells us his officers are working hard, logging plenty of overtime, and making arrests around the clock to combat the spike in violence.

"I think, in my opinion, when I hear the outrage -- without the outrage, we would be in trouble," said Chief Axtell.

For months, the frustration has built in St. Paul. With rally after rally following shooting after shooting. Of St. Paul’s 27 homicides this year, a record 24 of them have involved guns.

"And we never had that level of gun-related homicides in the history of our department," explained the chief.

Chief Todd Axtell is frustrated, too. In September, after three fatal shootings in nine hours, he announced added patrols, beefed up homicide and gang units. Arrests followed but the fatal shootings still keep happening.

"Predominantly, what we’re seeing is a very small percentage of our community, younger people predominantly, who are settling their differences, mostly over gang-related disrespect, with guns," said Chief Axtell.

Chief Axtell says it seems conflicts, often started online, between rival gangs ends with bloodshed. (FOX 9)

He says about half the murders are connected to gangs -- not the organized gangs of the 90s, so there’s no hierarchy to dismantle. The triggers being pulled are sometimes simply because someone was insulted often on social media.

"There’s more guns in the hands of people who should not be legally possessing handguns," said Axtell.

Many of the guns used in these shootings are stolen or purchased illegally. But so far this year, police have taken 530 guns off the streets.

"I want to be perfectly clear to anybody who thinks of pulling a trigger in this city and carrying a gun unlawfully, that we will unapologetically target you and come after you and hold you accountable for your actions in this city," said Axtell.