BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. — A mother who dropped off her toddler at a home day-care on Monday returned a few minutes later to make a grisly discovery: three adults inside, shot to death.
The woman's child was unhurt and no other children were at the day care at the time. Police had made no arrests by Monday evening, and were seeking a suspect in his mid-20s, believed to have fled on a BMX bicycle.
"It's a tragic day for the city of Brooklyn Park," Chief Michael Davis said. "We are going to bring whomever is responsible for this to justice."
Two nearby community colleges were locked down for several hours after the shootings were reported at 6:30 a.m. Both had re-opened by Monday afternoon, even as police continued to search for a suspect with police dogs.
The day care, called Visions and Butterflies Child Care, is licensed to care for as many as 12 children. DeLois Brown, 59, is listed in state records as the license holder in good standing, with no adverse rulings or restrictions. The license is valid through February 2013.
No one responded to a call to the home Monday afternoon. Police did not release the identities of the victims or the woman who found them.
Police spokesman Todd Milburn gave this account:
The mother had just dropped off her toddler, speaking to someone at the house as she did so. As she was leaving the area, she saw a man on foot who seemed to be acting suspiciously.
The woman called the day care and was talking to someone when the line went dead. She returned to the home and found three people had been shot. She grabbed her child and called 911. Police confirmed the victims were dead when they arrived.
Milburn said the woman saw the same suspicious man on a bicycle when she returned to the day care.
Police said they had no information on how many children were typically cared for at Brown's home, or when they were normally dropped off.
A neighbor, Hakeem Hughes, 18, said he heard screaming coming from the direction of the house around 6:30 a.m. but didn't pay much attention because children often played outside the home. When he went to catch his bus to school, he said police told him to go back inside because a gunman was on the loose.
"I'm just shocked about it," Hughes said. "They are good people. They are innocent people."
A few hours after the shootings, police tape was stretched around the house, a gray split-level in a modest neighborhood with children's toys in the fenced backyard. The Hennepin County sheriff's crime lab van was parked outside, and authorities went in and out, carrying what appeared to be evidence to the van.
A small group of people stood in the street several houses down, sobbing and hugging each other.
Brown's LinkedIn profile listed her as follow-up coordinator for Pink Purse Project Inc., a women's and girls' empowerment organization. She worked for nearly nine years in the nearby Osseo Area Schools system as a child care instructor and later child care site supervisor.
Ron Brown, DeLois' brother-in-law, said DeLois had just moved her parents to Minnesota from the St. Louis area. He said his brother, Joseph, died in February, and DeLois brought her parents up to Minnesota from Illinois just last week so she could take care of them.
"She called us a week ago today, to say they made it back safe and sound with a truckload of furniture," Ron Brown said.
Brown said DeLois and Joseph didn't have any children together, but DeLois had some children before the pair were married.
A neighbor, Lisa Johnson, said that since Joseph died, the house had been busier, with more people coming and going. Johnson said she saw a moving van outside Brown's home a week ago.