St. Paul rec center shooting victim 'critical'; rec center worker arrested

St. Paul police investigate shooting at Jimmy Lee Recreation Center
St. Paul police are investigating a shooting Wednesday afternoon at Jimmy Lee Recreation Center, near Central High School. Police say a teen has a life-threatening head wound.
Sarah Thamer | MPR news

Updated: Jan. 19, 2:18 p.m. | Posted: Jan. 18, 6 p.m.

A teen shot in the head Wednesday outside St. Paul’s Jimmy Lee Recreation Center is in critical condition, and the 26-year-old suspect in custody is a city employee who was working at the rec center, city authorities said Thursday.

“We are shocked by this. We ought to be shocked by this,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said Thursday as he briefed reporters on the shooting.

Two men stand
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and St. Paul Police Chief Axel Henry address the press on Thursday. Henry said he frequented the Jimmy Lee Recreation Center growing up, and that the city would be “taking every step that we can take to prevent this kind of tragedy from ever happening again.”
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

Axel Henry, the city’s police chief, said officers were called to the center across the street from Central High School at 4:12 p.m. Wednesday. The shooting, he added, happened in the parking lot outside the building.

Medics treated the victim who was transported to Regions Hospital. Officers searched the neighborhood where they found the suspect and recovered a handgun, he said.

MPR News generally does not name suspects until they are charged with a crime. Carter and Andy Rodriguez, director of the city’s parks and recreation department, did confirm the man was employed by the city as a community recreation specialist and was assigned to the Jimmy Lee center.

Prior to the shooting he was listed on the city’s website as the center’s onsite contact. By Thursday morning, the name had been removed.

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The shooting led Central High to institute a “lockout” procedure for about 45 minutes Wednesday afternoon. School officials canceled school Thursday citing the trauma of the shooting.

Carter, who frequented the Jimmy Lee Recreation Center growing up in St. Paul, said the city would take its time reopening the facility and would be “taking every step that we can take to prevent this kind of tragedy from ever happening again.”

He noted that while the city prevents its employees from carrying guns while on duty, state law precludes the city from prohibiting guns at rec centers.

The mayor did not identify the victim and said the family has asked to remain anonymous.