Charges: St. Paul rec center worker shot boy after argument, fight

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

An argument at St. Paul’s Jimmy Lee Recreation Center between a 16-year-old boy and a rec center employee mushroomed into a fight outside the center that ended with the worker shooting the boy in the head and fleeing, prosecutors said Friday.

Exavir Dwayne Binford Jr., 26, was charged with second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault in the Wednesday confrontation that left the victim in critical condition and fighting for his life.

Binford is expected to make his first court appearance Friday afternoon.

Charging documents describe a chaotic scene earlier in the afternoon after a large number of students from nearby Central High School walked over to the center after school ended. Witnesses said a “big fight” among girls outside prompted Binford to come out and tell the students to leave.

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Police briefly responded to the fight but things calmed down after the police left and no one was allowed into the rec center because of the fight.

Some students remained outside the building. Witnesses said the victim, identified in court records by the initials JT, and another boy, cited as RC, argued with Binford in front of the main entry. A witness told police that “JT said something to Binford which started everything. Binford pulled down his coat and showed JT and RC his gun.”

The argument ended up as a parking lot fight with the two boys grabbing and punching Binford, according to a witness cited in the charging documents. It lasted only a few seconds. “As soon as the physical fight ended, Binford backed up, pulled out his gun, and shot JT right in the head. JT fell.”

Neither JT nor the other boy had weapons, police said.

Charges indicate Binford was agitated about the circumstances of the afternoon, including that a girl got permission from another rec center employee to let her cousin back into the rec center, a move Binford perceived as undermining his authority to keep people out.

According to a witness, before the argument with JT turned into a fight, then gunfire, Binford allegedly said, “If I got to kill somebody I will.”

Investigators arrested Binford later in the day Wednesday after he fled the scene. They recovered a handgun. They noted Binford had a busted lip and injuries above his right eye when they found him.

When they asked, they said Binford couldn’t explain why he shot JT but said he would not have shot if “they hadn’t put hands on him.”

Binford said he had the gun at the rec center because he was working until its 9 p.m. closing time. He said the center did not know he was carrying a gun.

Andy Rodriguez, director of the city’s parks and recreation department, said Wednesday that Binford was employed by the city as a community recreation specialist and was assigned to the Jimmy Lee center.

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

The victim has not been identified publicly beyond his initials. Mayor Melvin Carter on Thursday said the family has asked to remain anonymous.