Murder charge against man accused in 2016 shooting that killed 2-year old dismissed

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Charges filed in 2019 against a man who was suspected in a 2016 shooting that killed a 2-year-old boy in Minneapolis were dismissed Tuesday.

According to court documents, a second-degree murder charge filed against 36-year-old Chris Welch was dismissed.

Police at the time said Welch and another man were shooting at each other near Penn and Lowry avenues in Minneapolis.

They said they believed one of Welch’s bullets ended up hitting 2-year-old Le’vonte King Jason Jones, who was sitting in a vehicle at the time. The boy died. His sister was also hit by a bullet but survived.

Welch entered a "not guilty" plea in November 2019. Since the time of the 2016 shooting, he had been incarcerated in various locations prior to the plea and was in custody on another unrelated matter, court documents stated.

Prosecutors said they cannot move ahead with Welch’s trial in this case because key witnesses are not cooperating with the state.

"Without these key witnesses, the State does not have any evidence to present at a trial to identify (Welch) as the person who committed the crime. Therefore, the State has insufficient evidence to prove (Welch) guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the alleged offense. Accordingly, the State has no other option left but to dismiss the charges," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said via the dismissal document.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s office released this statement on the matter:

"This office is very disappointed that we were forced to dismiss the murder charges in the Welch case. There was a total lack of cooperation from witnesses including the father of the child who witnessed the shooting and would not identify the shooter. The mother cooperated fully and we express our full sympathy to her and the family. Unfortunately, lack of witness support is increasing, making prosecution in other cases more difficult. Full community support is necessary to bring the killers of little children to justice and we hope people will be forthcoming in the future in other cases."