On January 3, 22-year-old north Minneapolis resident Devonte Coppage became St. Paul's first homicide victim of 2014 when a pot deal gone awry led to him being shot multiple times in a BP station parking lot.
Twenty days later, another pot deal gone wrong led to 61-year-old Darnell Harris becoming Minneapolis's first murder victim of the year, according to charges filed in Hennepin County yesterday.
Brandon Bell, a 24-year-old Richfield resident, has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with Harris's death.
According to the charges, private security cameras at a home on the 4500 block of 1st Avenue South in Kingfield captured footage of Bell exiting his vehicle and firing multiple shots into Harris's vehicle around 9:30 p.m. Thursday. Harris, struck in his leg, managed to drive to the 35th Street entrance ramp to northbound 35W, where officers later found him slipping in and out of consciousness with a large pool of blood in his car.
He managed to tell officers "Brandon" had shot him. An examination of his cell phone and the security footage led investigators to conclude Bell was the person Harris referred to.
Harris was transported to HCMC, where he was expected to recover from his injuries.
"We didn't expect him to check out," MPD spokesman John Elder told us over the weekend.
But on Saturday night, Harris passed away.
"At first, this looked like it would be a minor injury and we would charge some sort of an aggravated assault," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement. "But the leg wound killed Mr. Harris and we are now charging a murder and will pursue it aggressively."
Investigators brought Bell in for questioning. He first told them he had been buying weed from Harris along 1st Avenue when another vehicle pulled up and fired at Harris. But when shown the video footage of a man resembling him firing into Harris's vehicle, Bell changed his story.
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Bell said he recently gave Harris $10,000 to $12,000 to go to Colorado and buy marijuana for him. But Harris came back to Minnesota empty-handed, explaining to Bell that his money "got took." To retaliate, Bell said he decided, spontaneously, to rob Harris of whatever pot or money he had when the two met up on the 23rd.
Toward that end, Bell said he pulled a gun on Harris, which prompted Harris to break out his own firearm. Bell said he grabbed for Harris's gun and it accidentally went off, shooting Harris in the leg.
But "when confronted with the video evidence that showed [him] shooting at [Harris]'s car, he said that he slipped on some ice, which probably caused his gun to go off," the charging document states.
"The only lesson to be learned from this tragedy is that once a bullet is fired, there is no telling what damage it will do," Freeman said.