3 charged with murder in November shooting in St. Paul

Three men have been charged with murder for their alleged roles in a fatal shooting outside an apartment building last month in St. Paul’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood.

Court documents show 27-year-old Deveon Kirk and 20-year-old Jai’Patric Timberlake, both of St. Paul, and 31-year-old Dontaye Thomas of Minneapolis are all charged with one count each of second-degree murder in the Nov. 20 shooting death of 32-year-old Rashaad L. Van Pelt of St. Paul.

A criminal complaint states officers responded to a weapons complaint at an apartment complex near York Avenue and North Cypress Street. A caller said a man with a gun had pounded on the window of their first-floor residence and, after that person left, the caller reported hearing 15 gunshots.

Police found Van Pelt lying in the alley between two apartment buildings, bleeding from the mouth and barely responsive, the complaint states. Minutes later, he went limp and he no longer had a pulse. Medics pronounced him dead at the scene just before midnight. An autopsy determined Van Pelt had been shot nine times.

Witnesses told police they’d heard arguing and loud music outside for more than 10 minutes leading up to the shooting and saw several men drive off in a blue sedan.

One witness who saw the shooting said he went to his front door to turn the light on for a pizza delivery driver. He looked in the direction of the argument and saw four men standing in the street, facing Van Pelt. The witness said he saw between six and nine muzzle flashes and then saw the victim fall to the ground before he went back inside and told someone to call 911.

Surveillance video showed two people who confronted Van Pelt had gotten out of a red Saturn that was still in the parking lot when police arrived. One of the suspects dashed back to the car after the shooting, and a latent fingerprint on the car’s window matched Kirk. Another fingerprint found inside the car matched with a man identified as "HH."

HH was the only person out of the group of four confronting Van Pelt who didn’t have a gun, and surveillance video showed that Kirk was the one who shot the victim.

Police were eventually able to track down Timberlake, who was in the passenger seat of a car on Monday when he was placed under arrest. The driver he was with told police that he had picked Timberlake up after the shooting and that Timberlake told him, "Bro, I think he killed him, bro."

In an interview with police, Timberlake denied any wrongdoing and said he was at the scene of the shooting "to defuse the situation." He said he never shot Van Pelt, despite investigators showing him surveillance footage that appeared to show Timberlake holding a gun and firing at Van Pelt while he was on the ground.

Police then arrested HH, who identified Kirk by a nickname after being shown a photo and said his nephew, Thomas, was also there that night. HH said he, Kirk and Timberlake went to York Avenue after he’d gotten a call from Thomas claiming someone was trying to fight him. HH said Kirk and Timberlake were drunk at the time.

When they arrived, Kirk and Timberlake tried breaking into the apartment building, HH said, but Thomas collected them and led them to Van Pelt. Thomas was upset and started arguing, and before HH could get his nephew to leave, Kirk shot Van Pelt "for no reason," the complaint states.

HH told police neither Thomas nor Timberlake shot Van Pelt and that Thomas actually had a BB gun, the complaint states. He also said Van Pelt was not being aggressive and did not have a gun. He said Kirk later acted like Van Pelt was bringing his hands up, but that wasn’t true. At the end of the interview, HH said he would have Thomas turn himself in.

When Thomas turned himself in, he told police he’d gotten into a fight with a man named Ricky a few hours before the shooting. Thomas said he was friends with Van Pelt and that when he was leaving the apartment, Van Pelt said he’d heard Thomas had gotten beaten up. Thomas said he started arguing with Van Pelt because he didn’t like feeling like he was being made fun of.

Thomas said Van Pelt had "threatened to shoot the whole block up" and texted Timberlake to bring a gun prior to coming over. He also told police that Kirk was the only one who pulled the trigger and denied ever pointing his BB gun at Van Pelt. Thomas corroborated HH’s account that Van Pelt was unarmed and didn’t make any immediate threats in the moments leading up to the shooting.

Timberlake drove everyone away from the scene, Thomas told police.

Timberlake and Thomas were both booked into the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center, and a judge set their bail at $1 million each. They had their first court appearances Wednesday morning.

Kirk was sentenced earlier this month to five years in prison for a 2020 felony weapons charge. He remains incarcerated at Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud. No court date has been set for Kirk in this case.