Last night, the Saint Paul Police Department (SPPD) and the local neighborhood association put on a community forum at Saint Thomas University, to answer questions about the shooting that happened last Friday, as well as crime in general in the neighborhood.
I attended, fully expecting to be marooned deep in Subaru-driving, free-range-alpaca-wearing, trigger-warning-observing country. And I largely was – but there were a few friends there as well.
Just the Facts: the major subject of the meeting, of course, was the two incidents that happened last weekend.
The first was the shooting at Summit and Mississippi River Boulevard (the facts of which as discussed by the police didn’t differ much from the account presented in this space); Laurentai Broadbent and his accomplices had apparently stolen a car (in which two handguns had been stored by their owner), carried out a couple of robberies, and were test-firing the guns on the bluffs above the Mississippi below the monument at East River Road and Summit when they saw the couple, figured them as “targets of opportunity”, and tried to rob them.
The police also related an incident at a memorial vigil for the late Mr. Broadbent on Sunday. There, as a group of mourners gathered to commemorate Mr. Broadbent, a car driving by some friends of the family drove up, apparently intending to play some music that Mr. Broadbent had enjoyed, at the request of the family. Some party or parties in the audience apparently believed a drive-by shooting was about to happen, and opened fire at the car; the occupants bailed and fled; the Mercedes crashed into a monument. The SPPD believes they caught the shooters in that incident, in which apparently nobody was hurt.
Check Your Majority: SPPD chief Tom Smith called the Broadbent shooting a “senseless incident”, noting that one of the accomplices involved had been in a diversion program; the kids’ father apparently gave him up.
He – and the five other senior staff, including the commander of the Western District, Paul Iovino – addressed crowd of about 100 people, saying the shooting “Should be an anomaly” and that the city as whole has “had a great summer”, with “low violence, except for two groups”.
Not all was well, naturally; the “two groups” are among the gangs whose activity seems, according to Iovino, to be on the rise. They also noted that the gang activity, while it’s rising, doesn’t seem to have any coherent leadership in the Twin Cities; it’s apparently just a lot of punks, not an organized syndicate, the way the Crips and the Bloods were in the eighties and early nineties. There’s also been a hike in car break-ins, even in that placid part of Saint Paul. But overall, the district’s patrol chief, John Bandemer, noted that crime in general is off nearly a third so far this year in the district.
One member of the audience asked, regarding the break-ins, if they neighborhood could get more surveillance cameras.
Bad as that was, it seemed for the first half of the meeting that an awful lot of audience questions related to the person whose car and guns had been stolen; many seemed to want to find a way to indict him for Mr. Broadbent’s death. I was sorely tempted to ask the cops “is there any evidence that the stolen guns themselves exerted any control over Mr. Broadbent’s thought processes”, but I didn’t think the cops would be the best audience for my brand of satire.
Another audience member asked for the name of the shooter; Commander Iovino noted that the shooter has been the subject of threats, and
Deterring The Good Guys…: Chief Smith noted that the Ramco Attorney’s office should be ruling next week on whether the shooter will be charged with any crimes related to his self-defense shooting.
Iovino noted that the shooter was never detained, and certainly not arrested (he was “interviewed”, in Iovino’s words), which would normally be good signs for the shooter, if one is not in a one-Party DFL city.
However, I will be pleasantly surprised if Ramco attorney John Choi’s office doesn’t try to pin something on the guy; Saint Paul’s city government does not like carry permittees or civilians shooting back at criminals; Chief Smith specifically noted (in response to a question about the Big Bad Second Amendment groups from the audience) that, while he’s “not a politician”, he doesn’t care for the NRA or the “good guy with a gun” theory. I hope I’m wrong; I hope the shooter makes out like the shooter in the Darren Evanovich incident a few years back.
…But Maybe Not The Bad Guys: I asked Commander Iovino why the three accomplices hadn’t been charged under the statute that allows charging for murder or manslaughter in cases where an accomplice is killed in the commission of a crime in which they participated. The law is intended to deter people from pitching in and helping out in committing violent crimes – like armed robbery.
Iovino deferred to Kate Brickman (I hope I got the name right) of the Ramco Attorney’s Juvenile Division. She said that the County Attorney declined to charge for murder because this situation was “not the intent of the law”.
I figured it wasn’t the right audience for the follow-up quesitons, “Why?” and “If the law wasn’t intended for exactly this situation, then what, pray tell, is it intended for?”
And I still think those are some worthwhile questions.