Updated: 7:20 p.m.
St. Paul police are investigating the fatal shootings of three men in separate incidents that spanned nine hours — including a man who was killed while trying to help motorists involved in a car crash.
Authorities were working to determine if the shootings were connected. By late Tuesday afternoon, officials said they’d arrested two 15-year-olds in connection with one of the killings, a brazen afternoon shooting on a busy Rice Street in the city’s North End.
In one of the other shootings, of a good Samaritan who tried to help in the aftermath of a traffic accident, authorities have charged a man with second- and third-degree murder.
Mayor Melvin Carter and St. Paul police chief Todd Axtell acknowledged the spasm of violence had shaken St. Paul residents’ sense of security. Axtell said in his 30 years on the force, he could not recall a spate of homicides so close together.
“It was shocking. It was outrageous. And it was an anomaly,“ Axtell told reporters as he announced the arrests of the 15-year-olds, along with a plan to beef up patrols and focus the department’s energy on solving all the killings.
Teen left dead in first killing
The first shooting left an 18-year-old man dead in the city’s North End neighborhood about 4:30 p.m. Monday, according to a department statement.
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In that shooting, several people called 911 and reported multiple shots fired near the intersection of Rice Street and Winnipeg Avenue West. Officers found the victim inside a store. Police identified him later as Raumez Ross, 18, of Apple Valley.
He had been shot many times, police said. Medics attempted to render aid, but he died inside the store.
Police said at least 30 people might have witnessed that slaying. Authorities do not believe the killing was random.
While Axtell announced the arrest of the two 15-year-olds, he did not say why they were suspects in the Ross killing.
He praised the police response to what he described as a “chaotic scene” when officers arrived. Patrol officers, he said, immediately began CPR, and investigators collected evidence, interviewed witnesses and tracked down the suspects.
Good Samaritan left dead in second slaying
A Roseville man is due in court Wednesday morning to face murder charges in connection with a fatal shooting on St. Paul's east side late Monday.
About 10 p.m. Monday, police were called to the intersection of Case Avenue East and Edgerton Street North in the city’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood on a report of a multi-vehicle crash, according to a St. Paul Police press release.
While en route to that call, police were told that shots were fired at the scene of the crash. When they arrived they found a man — who had been trying to help the two drivers involved in the crash — suffering from gunshot wounds.
He was pronounced dead at the scene. He was later identified as Javier Sanmiguel, 31, of St. Paul.
A woman, whose vehicle had been rear-ended, was not hurt. And a man, who was driving another vehicle, was arrested in the shooting, police said.
Witnesses told police the man, Lionel Keejuan Eaton, 27, was driving south on Edgerton Street when he rear-ended another southbound vehicle, being driven by a woman. The collision caused the woman’s vehicle to cross into the northbound lane and crash into an unoccupied parked vehicle.
The suspect’s vehicle continued south on Edgerton and struck a second unoccupied parked car on the northwest corner of Edgerton and Case avenues.
According to the criminal complaint, Eaton's mother arrived at the scene and told officers that her son had been acting erratically and she was concerned he was having a mental health crisis. Eaton allegedly told police that he was rammed by another car and feared for his life.
The crash happened outside Sanmiguel’s home. As he came out to help the drivers, the suspect began to shoot from inside his vehicle and struck Sanmiguel in the head, police said.
Eaton is charged with second- and third-degree murder in the death of Sanmiguel.
A neighbor described Sanmiguel as a devoted family man and father of four young children.
Victim in third shooting driven to hospital
In the third incident, police were called to Regions Hospital where they found two injured men who arrived in a car riddled with bullets.
One man, identified as Nickey “Nico” Taylor by his mother, was dead from gunshot wounds. A second man suffered non life-threatening injuries and a third, Taylor’s brother, was not hurt, said Taylor’s mother.
Authorities said a person fired at the car Taylor was in at the intersection of University Avenue and Marion Street. Taylor’s brother, according to his mother, drove his brother to the hospital, which is a short distance away.
As of 3 a.m., no one had been arrested in that killing and authorities were waiting for their forensic unit to arrive from the earlier crime scene.
Milagro Rosario said her son, 27, worked as a mechanic in St. Paul and was the father of a 5-year-old daughter.
“He’s a wonderful father,’’ said Rosario standing in the parking lot of Sunrise Bank near the shooting scene early Tuesday morning. “He wasn’t into street stuff so that makes it harder to accept this.”
Taylor’s uncle, Alfredo Rosario, said the violence was inexcusable as he watched investigators comb over the scene of the shooting.
“People take life for granted. It’s so easy to pull the trigger, but the consequences behind it, man. Come on man. You leave families suffering, for what? None of this s--- is worth it.”
The killings marked the 17th, 18th and 19th killings in Minnesota’s capital city this year.
Axtell on Tuesday unveiled a plan to win back the public’s trust and move quickly to solve the homicides.
The plan included calling back off-duty officers for extra patrols Tuesday. He also said a department task force would help focus energy on solving the crimes. He also spoke of using new technology to help review surveillance video.
Axtell sounded a cautionary note already in an appearance before the City Council last week, saying a proposed budget cut for 2020 would reduce his force by about five officers and add to the strain of trying to respond to the demands of increasing 911 calls and violence on the streets.
The city needs to make it clear that firearms are not an acceptable solution to any problem, said Dora Jones-Robinson, director and founder of St. Paul-based nonprofit Mentoring Young Adults.
“We just need to reach out and do more,” she said, her voice filled with emotion. “We need billboards. We need gun lawn signs up. We need stickers on the back of cars that say: Guns down St. Paul. Guns down St. Paul. Guns down St. Paul."
MPR News reporters Elizabeth Shockman and Matt Sepic contributed to this report.