Trial begins for man accused of murdering Minneapolis grandmother Birdell Beeks

Monday will mark another step toward justice for the family of a beloved North Minneapolis grandmother. Birdell Beeks was killed by stray gunfire in May 2016, with a trial for her accused killer, Joshua Ezeka, set to begin Monday.

“I got ... a text I wasn’t expecting from the defense counsel,” said Sa’Lesha Beeks, Beeks' daughter. “So it really brought it to light that it’s here, it’s coming.”

Birdell Beeks was in a minivan with her granddaughter in May 2016, riding near 21st Avenue North and Penn Avenue North. Police said Ezeka opened fire on rival gang members, and they fired back. Beeks was struck and killed in the crossfire.

“I don’t know that I can put it in to words,” Sa’Lesha Beeks said. “I don’t even know if I can put it in to words.”

It took almost eight months for police to make an arrest in the case, with Beeks' family fighting for justice the entire time in the hopes that someone might come forward.

Police arrested Ezeka in January 2017. Now, almost exactly a year later, that trial is set to begin. 

Sa’Lesha Beeks has also fought to prevent more violence, advocating for more surveillance cameras in North Minneapolis. Last Thursday, she attended a roundtable discussion with new Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo to discuss solutions to the violence. 

Monday, her attention turns back to her mother’s case. She’s not only saddened for her family’s loss, but also for what Ezeka has lost as well.

“I believe he’s taken his own life as well.  He was very young when this happened. Very, very young,” Sa’Lesha Beeks said.  “And to take an innocent person such as my mom, someone that could have been a support system to him--because I understand he didn’t have such a great childhood--should really weigh heavy on him.”

Sa’Lesha Beeks said another man arrested in the case, Freddy Scott, Jr., reached a plea agreement. He was accused of telling Ezeka where the gang members were going to be and driving the getaway car. 

Ezeka, meanwhile, has been charged with murder and faces 40 years in prison, if convicted.