Two Twin Cities men are facing federal charges for a February carjacking at Rosedale Mall. The charges come amid an announcement last week that federal agencies are converging resources into the Twin Cities and Minnesota to crack down on the surge of violent crime experienced over at least the last two years.
Leon Kismit Bell, 48, of St. Paul is charged with one count of carjacking, and Jack Mitchell Piche, 22, of Richfield is charged with one count of aiding and abetting carjacking related to the Feb. 16 incident.
Charges say Rosedale Mall video shows Piche and Bell as they exit a bus and begin walking toward Granite City Food & Brewery. The pair were walking around the parking lot of the Rosedale Center Mall when they followed a vehicle with a 67-year-old woman and waited for her to park. Surveillance video from the mall’s parking lot shows Bell and Piche approach the woman as she stands outside of her vehicle.
When the victim exited her vehicle, Bell approached her and said, “Give me your keys” as he pointed a handgun at her stomach. The barrel of the gun was nearly touching her. The woman gave Bell her purse, which contained her wallet and keys, and she ran from the vehicle. Bell initially ran after the woman, but then returned to the vehicle, got in the driver’s seat, and drove to pick up Piche, who was several rows away in the parking lot. The two men then fled the parking lot.
Court documents say officers with the Roseville Police Department were able to track the vehicle heading south on I-35W. The vehicle was driving erratically and due to safety concerns, officers stopped their pursuit. Further investigation led law enforcement to a location in south Minneapolis where Piche was taken into custody. The stolen vehicle was found a few blocks away from where Piche was arrested. On May 3, 2022, law enforcement located and arrested Bell in Minneapolis.
The two were originally charged in Hennepin County District Court following the carjacking, but federal charges were filed in late April, according to court documents.
Bell is currently on parole and has a lengthy criminal history with 25 prior convictions including 15 felonies. Most recently, Bell was convicted in September in Dakota County on a felony charge of theft — his 15th felony conviction.
Despite Bell’s lengthy criminal history that includes multiple burglaries and aggravated robberies, financial card fraud, auto theft and other thefts, he was granted a stay on the 21-month prison sentence in a dispositional downward departure by Judge Shawn M. Moynihan. Instead, bell was credited with 93 days already spent in jail and was placed on probation for a term of five years.
Court records show Piche doesn’t have much in the way of prior convictions in Minnesota but has other pending cases on charges of third- and fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct and DWI.
Both suspects remain in federal custody at this time.
New federal crackdown on violent crime
The same day of Bell’s arrest last week, federal officials held a press conference announcing a partnership with local law enforcement to crack down on Twin Cities violent crime.
U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Andrew Luger stated that personnel from his office will be collaborating with the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF), the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and local law enforcement agencies to arrest and bring federal charges against violent offenders.
The joint federal strategy comes nearly two years into an unprecedented violent crime wave in Minneapolis and St. Paul that in recent months has surged into the suburbs. The agencies will target offenders over the age of 18 with federal charges, including gang members, carjackers, and those engaged in shootings, gun crimes and other illegal weapons offenses, Luger said.
The move comes as criticism grows over Minnesota’s lax criminal justice system and as the state heads toward a critical midterm election where all statewide constitutional offices are up for election, including the governor and attorney general, as well as every seat in the state legislature and the U.S. House seats. Other local races include sheriffs and prosecutors for both Hennepin and Ramsey counties.
Indications are that the federal enforcement and prosecution action will extend through the summer months and that some of the agencies will return to their regular work in September.
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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.