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St. Paul shooter acquitted due to mental illness

Saint Paul Pioneer Press - 5/31/2024

A St. Paul man who shot a man he didn’t know outside a North End gas station and threatened to shoot himself when police confronted him — causing a 90-minute standoff — has been acquitted of charges by reason of mental illness.

Ramsey County District Judge Joy Bartscher found 33-year-old Kirk Warren Jones not guilty due to his mental illness, writing in a verdict last week that evidence shows he was “laboring under such a defect of reason that he was unable to know that it was wrong for him to try to shoot at the driver of the van.”

Jones faced second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and illegally possessing a firearm charges in connection with the 2021 incident at a Speedway along Rice Street, north of Wheelock Parkway.

According to the criminal complaint, police were called to the Speedway around 11 a.m.Oct. 8, 2021, on a report of shots fired. A 28-year-old man who had been shot in the wrist told police that a man, later identified as Jones, approached him while he was pumping gas and began firing shots at him with a handgun.

The injured man said he backed his van out of the station and fled. He said he did not know Jones, nor did he know why he shot at him.

Witnesses described the shooter to police, which helped them quickly locate him walking in the area. When officers approached, Jones pulled a 9mm handgun out of his pocket and pointed it at himself, saying that he would rather kill himself than go back to jail or the hospital.

Officers worked to remove bystanders from the area and evacuate nearby businesses. They set up a perimeter and began talking to Jones.

SWAT and a crisis negotiator were called. Around 12:30 p.m., officers were able to arrest Jones without incident. While in custody, Jones was speaking rapidly and rambling, the complaint says.

He said he thought the man was following him. He said he did not intend to kill him, but just wanted him to stop what he was doing, adding that he had been depressed and not taking his medication for a week, the complaint states.

Jones’ criminal record shows three drug-related convictions, as well as convictions for first-degree burglary, criminal sexual conduct, theft and two convictions for not registering as a sex offender. He is ineligible to possess a firearm.

A judge found Jones incompetent to face the charges in November 2021, and he was civilly committed as mentally ill and dangerous. He was found competent for court proceedings last June.

A bench trial was held May 14 and Bartscher found Jones guilty of the charges, and then took the issue of his mental illness defense under consideration.

Bartscher concluded that that “it is more likely true than not that the failure of (Jones) to know that his acts were wrong was the direct result of a defect of reason” caused by his mental illnesses — schizoaffective disorder, PTSD and unspecified personality disorder.

Jones remains in custody awaiting civil commitment hearings.

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