A man sat waiting for the train at the light rail station at University Avenue near Western. He was trying to get home after a night of drinking, his backpack propped between his legs on the platform.
A teen rode up on his bike, stopping to greet a friend. Two other young men joined them and the four gathered around, talking.
Then the boy on the bike started pedaling toward the older man on the bench, hiked up his leg, and kicked him in the head. The older man scrambled off the bench and dropped the backpack. The boy picked it up, slung it over his shoulder, and started to bike away.
The victim started forward. Another teen in the group slugged him in the jaw, bringing him down to the ground.
That’s when a family driving by braked to a stop beside the station. A woman and her 11-year-old daughter has just picked up dad from work when they saw what looked like a group of kids ganging up on an elderly, possibly disabled man. The woman blasted her horn and yelled out the window that she was calling the cops. Her boyfriend ran straight out of the car, toward the platform to help.
Three shots rang out. The little girl felt something brush past her hair – she’d later pick up a bullet fragment from the floor of her mom’s car. The assailants scattered. Dad returned to the car, saying, “I got hit. It burns. It stings.”
At Regions Hospital, surgeons removed the wounded man’s spleen and parts of his pancreas, stomach, and colon. They fixed lacerations to his liver and a critical vein leading to his heart.
Metro Transit surveillance footage from September 2 led St. Paul Police’s gang unit to the bicyclist and the youth who punched and knocked the man on the platform to the ground. They both accused the victim of provoking the attacks – that he’d called one a racial slur and sexually harassed the other’s sister, according to charging documents. The boy on the bike added he was just “playing around” when he kicked the man in the head.
One of the youth led police to the suspected gunman, 18-year-old Treheem Smith. Though Smith initially declined to speak and asked for a lawyer, he had a change of heart in jail, according to the complaint. He confessed to the shooting, and to running home afterward and throwing the gun away in Lake Phalen.
Smith was charged with second-degree attempted murder Thursday.