Charges: Gang-affiliated rap song led to Raspberry Island homicide

A fatal shooting earlier this month at St. Paul’s Raspberry Island happened after a dispute between rival gang members over a rap song, newly filed charges state.

Ramsey County prosecutors formally charged 23-year-old Romello Ifonlaja-Randle, from Maplewood, on Friday with second-degree murder for the killing of 20-year-old Marcus Anthony Baker Jr.

Baker was found suffering from multiple gunshot wounds at Raspberry Island shortly after 9 p.m. on Aug. 14. He was taken to a hospital but later died.

RELATED: Raspberry Island shooting leaves man dead

Witnesses told investigators that Baker had been playing a song by NLU SKEET, a local rap artist affiliated with East Side gangs, charging documents state. At least one man then went up to Baker and told him to shut the music off but, when Baker refused, the man slapped Baker and then shot him.

One witness added that the man had said he was from the “dub,” apparently referencing the West Side, before shooting Baker and running away, court documents add.

A criminal complaint states that officers found dash camera video from a vehicle parked next to the Suburban Baker was in, and that video captured a silver Volkswagen drive off after the shooting. They also were told the suspects left a brown Target bottle carrier with two unopened bottles of Tequila.

With help from Target, officers were able to track the purchases of the alcohol and review corresponding surveillance video that showed three people getting into a silver Volkswagen after buying the liquor. One of those people was Ifonlaja-Randle and another was 24-year-old Tristan Ballard, court documents state.

On Aug. 16, officers went back to Raspberry Island and recovered a “ghost gun” with an attached laser that was lying on rocks along the south side of the bridge connecting the island to Harriet Island Boulevard. A test firing later showed casing matched a casing found at the murder scene, and DNA testing found Ifonlaja-Randle’s DNA on the gun’s laser attachment. Cellphone records also put Ifonlaja-Randle and Ballard at the scene of the murder when it happened, the complaint states.

Ifonlaja-Randle and Ballard were arrested in Brooklyn Center on Wednesday but Ifonlaja-Randle denied being at the scene, knowing Ballard or anything about Baker’s murder or the gun that was found. A witness later identified Ifonlaja-Randle as the man who shot Baker, according to court documents.

The complaint adds that Ifonlaja-Randle “meets the criteria” to be considered part of a West Side gang, and police say rap songs are commonly used by gangs to taunt their opposition.

Ifonlaja-Randle is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Friday afternoon. He faces up to 40 years in prison.

While Ballard’s arrest was announced by St. Paul police, he hasn’t yet been formally charged.