Twin Cities weekend crime recap

Eight people were shot in St. Paul, the Minnesota BCA is investigating a Duluth officer-involved shooting, and a fugitive wanted on murder charges was found dead in a Minneapolis park.

St. Paul police respond to Saturday's shooting

The city of St. Paul had a violent weekend with at least eight people shot in two separate incidents that resulted in two people dead, marking the city’s 4th and 5th homicides this year. Three of those who were shot were minor teenagers.

In the first incident, St. Paul police responded to a report of shots fired Friday just before 8 p.m. on the 100 block of Robie Street East, which is the location of the Wellstone Center.  Dispatch audio indicated that a staff member reported that a shot came through their door. While police were responding, one officer aired that there was a funeral gathering at the location and that the shots fired could be “possible retaliation.” Police arrived and aired that three people had been shot and indicated that all gunshot victims were teens age 17 or under.

St. Paul police later told media that three males ages 14, 16, and 17 had received non-life-threatening injuries in a drive-by shooting. They also confirmed that the shots had occurred at a post-funeral gathering for murdered Harding High School student 15-year-old Devin Scott, nicknamed “Cheese,” who was stabbed to death at the school earlier this month.

St. Paul Police Sgt. Mike Ernster also said in a press briefing that police stopped a 16-year-old boy who was running away from the area of the shooting and found a gun with an extended magazine in his possession that had been modified with a “switch” which renders a gun to fire full-auto. Police were still trying to determine how or if he was connected to the shooting.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher also discussed the triple shooting incident with community activist Rev. Darryl Spence during his “Live on Patrol” broadcast Friday night and referenced a possible “retaliation” motive.

Sheriff Fletcher also referenced a shots fired incident that had occurred earlier in the afternoon Friday about 3:15 p.m. near Thomas Avenue and Milton Street in which about 20 shots were fired. He said that “shootout” in Frogtown could have been a precursor to the shooting at the Wellstone Center. No injuries were reported in that incident in which police at the time said there could have been up to four shooters.

In the second incident, five people were shot in St. Paul on Saturday just after 5 p.m. in another mass shooting incident that occurred on the 500 block of Dale Street, near University Avenue. When police arrived, they indicated that three people were shot and that CPR was being performed on at least one victim. Police indicated that other victims may be privately transporting to an area hospital.

Police later released a statement saying that two adult males had died from their injuries – one at the scene, and one who had been privately transported to Unity Hospital. Police also confirmed that three others had been injured by gunfire including an adult male in critical condition and an adult female in stable condition, both at Regions Hospital, as well as another adult female with non-life-threatening injuries at United Hospital.

Police said they believed the shooting stemmed from an altercation at a “celebration for life” event and didn’t believe it to be a random incident. No arrests had been made at the time.

One of the decedents in Saturday’s incident has been publicly identified as Larry Jiles, Jr., also known as “Chef Hot Hands,” of Hugo, who ran a gourmet restaurant and catering business out of Centerville, Minn.

Larry Jiles Jr. (Facebook)

Friends and family posted remembrances of Jiles online over the weekend. The Hugo Area Business Association described Jiles in a Facebook post as a loving and caring husband and father and said he was a strong and hardworking man determined to be successful.

The other decedent in Saturday’s double homicide was identified by St. Paul police on Monday as Troy Kennedy, 37, of St Paul.

Sgt. Ernster specified when asked that the two shooting incidents did not initially appear to be related although both had followed celebration of life gatherings.

The Brooklyn Park Police Department is seeking the public’s help in identifying the driver of a dark colored Buick Enclave that was at the scene of a shooting at 5700 Brookdale Drive on Thursday at 12:11 p.m. Police detectives believe the driver of the vehicle may be associated with a ride sharing company (possibly Uber or Lyft) and may have information critical to the case.

Brooklyn Park police seek info on a Buick Enclave present during a shooting Thursday (Brooklyn Park Police Dept.)

An adult male suffered multiple gunshot wounds in the shooting and was hospitalized in critical condition. A suspect was described at the time as wearing a colorful jacket and had a mask on his face. Police set up a perimeter and searched the area using a K9. They soon learned of a carjacking at gunpoint nearby and eventually determined the perpetrator was the same suspect in the shooting. The carjacking victim was not injured, and officers located the carjacked vehicle crashed in a nearby neighborhood where they shifted the ground search to that area. The suspect was not located at the time. BPPD said it is believed that the suspect and the victim knew each other but said the motive in the shooting was unknown at the time.

Anyone with information on this case is encouraged to call the Brooklyn Park Police Department at 763-493-8222.

The Crystal Police Department provided a community notification on Friday that a Level 3 sex offender has recently moved into their community.

Henry Lean Jackson, 63, is residing on the 4300 block of Welcome Avenue North. Jackson is described as 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds. Jackson is known by several aliases which can be found on the Department of Corrections website.

Jackson has a history of sexual contact with unknown adult females. Contact included penetration, and Jackson gained access by approaching them in public places. Compliance was gained through physical force, and in one case Jackson also provided alcohol to one female and took advantage of her vulnerable state.

Jackson has two separate 2008 convictions on third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was originally granted stayed prison sentences on the convictions and was placed on probation. However, his probation was revoked a few months later in 2009, and he was sent to prison where he served the two sentences concurrently.

Jackson was last released from custody in Aug. 2020, and is not currently wanted for any crime.

Henry Lean Jackson (MN Dept. of Corrections)

William Alberto Mendez Cruz, 24, of Burnsville was charged in Dakota County District Court on Friday with two counts of third-degree assault involving substantial bodily harm on a 3-year-old after the child was hospitalized last month after her skin peeled off from a burn.

William Alberto Cruz-Mendez (Dakota County Jail)

Charges say police were contacted by child protection last month after the child was brought to the emergency room with an approximately six-inch round burn on her back.

Upon a medical examination at the time, charges say several other injuries or evidence of past injuries were found on the child including bruising on her buttocks, back, arm, shoulder, and ribcage, a large area with peeling skin and blistering on her back consistent with a second-degree burn, marks that indicated a past possible first-degree burn, and a lesion on her chest indicating an abrasion or burn.

The child’s mother told investigators that she hadn’t noticed any injuries on the child when she bathed her the day prior to being hospitalized. The mother said she received a phone call while at work from her fiancé, Mendez Cruz, who was panicking. Mendez Cruz told the child’s mother that the child’s skin came off in the shower. The mother went home and took the child to the hospital with Mendez Cruz.

Two other family members were present in the home at the time the child sustained the injuries, including the child’s grandmother who said she had been in bed when she heard crying but didn’t think anything of it as the child cries all the time, she told investigators. The other family member said they woke up to the sound of the child crying louder than usual. A sister of the child’s mother, who was not present at the time, said the child had previously appeared afraid of Mendez Cruz and that she once observed a bruise on the child’s buttocks that looked like a handprint.

Mendez Cruz originally told police that the child had awakened him about 10 a.m. saying “ichy oweie.” He said he then put her in the tub to bathe her and that’s when he noticed the skin on her back peeling off. He said the child’s bruising was caused because she fell when getting out of the shower and the scratch on her skin was from him picking her up. Mendez Cruz also blamed the child’s blankets for causing injuries to her neck.

One of the physicians who treated the child told police that the child’s injuries were not consistent with Mendez Cruz’s story and that the injuries were concerning for physical abuse.

The prosecutor filed a notice of intent to seek aggravated upward sentencing due to the child’s vulnerability, the particular cruelty of the offenses, and Mendez Cruz’s position of authority over the child.

Mendez Cruz made his first court appearance on Monday morning where he requested an interpreter and was granted a public defender. Mendez Cruz remains jailed on $100,000 bail and is scheduled to make his next court appearance on March 15.

Level 3 sex offender Matthew Francis Vanhecke, 43, who had been living in the Hamburg area of Carver County was re-incarcerated over the weekend, records show.

Matthew Francis Vanhecke (Mn Dept. of Corrections)

Crime Watch had learned that Vanhecke, who is a former substitute teacher, had been arrested at his home earlier this month. The reasons for his arrest were not specified in court or jail records, but Vanhecke is required to abide by several conditions as part of his supervised release which extends until 2034.

Vanhecke has prior convictions in separate cases involving second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a minor victim under age 13 and possession of child pornography. Information about Vanhecke’s reincarceration could not be obtained in time for this report. A search of court records revealed no new charges, so it is presumed that the reincarceration may be due to a violation of one or more conditions of his release.

Department of Corrections records indicate that Vanhecke’s current incarceration is “indeterminate” with no anticipated release date listed.

Coon Rapids police engaged in a pursuit Sunday just after 5 p.m. of a vehicle containing a named suspect wanted on felony warrants including felon in possession of a firearm, according to dispatch audio. The pursuit reached speeds of 100 mph and entered into the city of Anoka where police found the vehicle abandoned near Oakwood Lane. A search perimeter ensued in a residential area along the river’s edge including the use of K9 and a State Patrol flight operator.

Alex James Tahedl, 34, was eventually taken into custody before 6 p.m. after being found hiding in a shed on the 400 block of River Lane.

Alex James Tahedl (Anoka County Jail)

Court records show that Tahedl, of Coon Rapids, was booked into custody on a Wright County warrant in a case involving charges of felon in possession of a firearm, drugs, and theft, as well as Anoka County warrants on fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct. Tahedl also has several other open cases in Wright and Sherburne counties including charges of felony burglary, and felony and gross misdemeanor theft.

Records show Tahedl has a lengthy history of convictions since the age of 19 including at least ten felonies. Tahedl’s prior convictions include fourth-degree sexual assault of an impaired victim, two for burglary, multiple theft, and failure to comply with predatory offender registration.

Tahedl made a court appearance in Anoka County District Court on Monday in the fifth-degree assault case and remained in custody on the Wright County weapons warrant.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reported on Saturday that wanted fugitive 58-year-old Ralph Leslie Apmann of Windom had been found deceased at Boom Island Park in Northeast Minneapolis.

Apmann had been charged in 2021 with second-degree murder without intent in the death of Juan Morales-Rivera during a fight outside a Windom bar. Apmann had been out of custody on bond awaiting trial. The BCA first posted on Feb. 13 that Apmann had failed to show up in court for the trial and they were looking for the public’s help in reporting his location. A jury convicted Apmann in absentia on Feb. 14 on the charge. The BCA said Apmann’s body was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Officer to determine the cause and manner of death.

Around Minnesota

The Red Wing Police Department provided a community notification on Thursday that a Level 3 sex offender has recently moved into their community.

Andre Demond Tolefree, 46, is residing in the vicinity of East 3rd Street. Tolefree is described as 5-foot-9 and 216 pounds. Tolefree is known by several aliases which can be found on the Department of Corrections website.

Tolefree’s prior offense information states that he engaged in sexual contact against a known female teenager, and contact included penetration. Tolefree used force and a weapon to gain compliance and gained access to the victim online. Tolefree also physically assaulted and held a known adult female against her will, and Tolefree used a weapon to gain compliance in that incident.

Tolefree was most recently released from custody earlier this month and is not currently wanted for any crime.

Andre Demond Tolefree (Mn Dept. of Corrections)

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is reportedly investigating following a Duluth Police Department officer involved fatal shooting on Friday. Duluth Police Chief Mike Ceynowa said in a video statement that police responded after 2 p.m. to the 1500 block of East 5th Street where officers were attempting to arrest a 34-year-old suspect on felony threats of violence. The chief said the investigation showed that the suspect was armed with a knife. Following failed attempts at de-escalation through verbal communication and the use of less-lethal options including taser and 40mm sponge rounds, the suspect charged an officer while holding the knife.

One officer fired his duty weapon and shot the suspect who later died at the hospital from his injuries. The officers involved, who were not named at the time, were placed on standard administrative leave during the investigation. The suspect who died has not yet been named.

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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.


Crime Watch MN

Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.