Video shows St. Paul rec center shooting suspect getting into fight with man in separate incident

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Video obtained by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS through a Data Practices Act request shows a December 3, 2019 incident involving a physical fight between an 18-year-old man and 26-year-old Exavir Binford Jr., the former City of St. Paul employee charged in the shooting this month at the Jimmy Lee Recreation Center.

Mayor Melvin Carter mentioned the 2019 altercation during his speech regarding Binford’s history of complaints.

In the video, which is supplemented by city records obtained by KSTP, Binford and the 18-year-old man get into a dispute over the use of a rec center computer just before closing time at the Arlington Hills Recreation Center on the city’s east side.

In a written statement, one city employee said the 18-year-old rec center visitor verbally threatened Binford.

Statements from Binford added the 18-year-old made it seem as if he had a gun and said, “Come around the corner, I’ma pop you.”

The employee said the man and Binford continued to argue. Then, Binford started punching the 18-year-old for just under 20 seconds before the fight was broken up by several people at the rec center.

The St. Paul Human Resources Department gave Binford a five-day suspension for his actions and told him his decisions “have the potential to put other recreation center participants, visitors and staff at risk of bodily harm.”

In a written statement, Binford said, “I didn’t really know if he had a firearm as he claimed so I reacted out of self-defense in fear of my safety as well for the others.”

KSTP asked Mayor Melvin Carter’s office for an interview or comment about the 2019 assault video, but a spokesperson said the mayor was unavailable and referred KSTP to comments the mayor made during a recent news conference.

During that Jan. 23 conference, Mayor Carter said this about the 2019 Arlington Hills Rec Center assault:

“This new information raises urgent questions, not only about his conduct, but about our system to identify, investigate and intervene in response to incidents and reports of behavior which fall beneath our standards.”

Carter also said there would be an independent audit of the city’s policies and processes for situations like Binford’s.