4 arrested in connection with Isanti County homicide

The Isanti County Sheriff’s Office announced that four people have been arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of 42-year-old Jose De Jesus Diaz Fernandez on Dec. 13.

The Sheriff’s Office identified three of the suspects and said they have been charged with two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree burglary:

  • Jesse Mateo Rodrigues, 43
  • Fredy Saavedra Olivar, 40
  • Abraham Alexander Houle, 41

Authorities said these three suspects all made their first court appearances on Friday.

Court records show that Jerold Allen Downs, 45, has been charged via warrant with two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree burglary.

Downs is in custody in another jurisdiction on an unrelated offense and is waiting to be extradited to Isanti County.

As previously reported, a 911 call came in around 6:36 a.m. on Dec 13, saying someone had been shot inside a home on the 7800 block of 309th Ave NW in Spencer Brook Township. Fernandez was found dead inside the home.

The caller said at least two people came into the house identifying themselves as police and ordered Fernandez to put his hands up. The woman said she took her child and hid, and then heard gunshots, according to a criminal complaint.

The woman said she came out from hiding after she thought she heard a vehicle drive away. She found Fernandez lying on the floor near the front entry with a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene, court documents state.

Authorities found damage to the door frame that was consistent with a door being kicked or otherwise forced open. Officers also found a rifle under Fernandez’s body.

Handgun and rifle casings were found inside and outside the home. There was also a spent rifle casing in the master bedroom, according to court documents.

A window had also been broken in one of the bedrooms, with damage to the shade and screen consistent with someone leaving through the window.

In the search of the scene, authorities found a suitcase containing $10,000 in cash.

Witnesses reported seeing two men dressed as police officers and armed with handguns. According to court documents, one of the men held a gun to the head of one of the victims in the basement and told him to put his hands against the wall.

The suspect tried to tie the victim up with a cord when shots rang out on the main level of the home. The suspect in the basement then left through a window.

Court documents state that authorities learned Fernandez may have been involved in the drug trade and that the house may have been a stash house for narcotics and currency. Investigators then learned that a vehicle owned by a woman who has been charged in other drug-related cases was at Fernandez’ residence on Dec. 13.

An informant told investigators that Downs had been using the vehicle the previous night. The informant also said that Olivar hired Downs, Rodrigues and possibly others to rob a stash house, and that they would be dressed as police officers.

An hour and a half before the homicide, surveillance video at a gas station shows a man appearing to be Downs dressed as a police officer with the vehicle seen at the scene of the crime, according to court documents.

A phone that was dropped at the scene also had selfies of Downs on it. Older-style police uniform pants were found at the home of Downs’ girlfriend.

The owner of the vehicle also admitted to police that she had lent the car to Downs.

Downs was spotted by members of the Violent Crime Task Force in Maplewood on Dec. 15. There was a short chase, but Downs eventually gave up and was arrested, according to court documents.

After his arrest, Downs told police he didn’t shoot “that guy” and didn’t have a gun at all.

After Downs’ arrest, the informant told police that the other person involved in the robbery was Houle. The informant said Houle had been shot in the stomach and was hurt.

In a search of the vehicle, investigators found three St. Paul Police uniform shirts, one of which had a hole in the abdomen. There was also blood on the uniforms, court documents state. Investigators also found a wallet with Downs’ credit card.

In a recorded call to police, Downs said that Fernandez and his girlfriend/wife were supposed to be in on the robbery and that the victim downstairs was supposed to think it was a police raid, according to court documents.

Downs also said he was upstairs when Fernandez started firing at him and Houle and they ran out. When asked if Rodrigues was the one firing, Downs said, “I’m not saying [Rodrigues fired nothing, I’m not saying like that right now, but he was downstairs, that’s all I know.”

After that, Downs said that someone came upstairs and shot Fernandez while he was shooting at him and Houle, when Houle was shot.

Investigators determined that the defendants had planned to split the cash to get out of an owed debt. They also planned to stage a robbery to get out of debt owed to a cartel organization, according to court documents. They believed that if they told the people they owed money to that they were robbed, their debts would be forgiven.

The day after the homicide, Downs told a friend about the shooting and said that Rodrigues shot Fernandez, the friend told officers.

Monday, Olivar met with police voluntarily to state that he didn’t have any part in the robbery, but admitted that he and his wife had $50,000 in drug debt to Fernandez.

Houle was arrested Wednesday. He had an extremely infected gunshot wound in his abdomen and was brought to the hospital. He denied being involved in the robbery and said his injury was from a car accident, but officers who responded to the crash said he didn’t have an injury to his abdomen at the time.