Two days before a judge convicted Antonio R. Seals of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Devonte R. Coppage, two young men allegedly tried to take justice into their own hands, shooting at someone they believed was related to Seals.
The Aug. 16 incident began at the very same BP gas station in St. Paul, 1200 White Bear Av., where Seals fired multiple shots at Coppage during a drug deal on Jan. 3.
No one was injured in the most recent attack, although two young children and a woman were in the car with the male target believed to be a Seals relative. The suspects allegedly pursued the victim's car at a high rate of speed through the streets of St. Paul, allegedly firing shots into the car's bumper and one tire.
Sgt. Paul Paulos, a police spokesman, confirmed that the August incident was related to Antonio Seals' family. The relationship between the suspects and Coppage is unclear, he said.
Eye-for-an-eye justice is not unheard of in St. Paul and the Twin Cities, where authorities know that one killing sometimes sparks another killing or violent assaults that can send shockwaves years after the initial incident. Paulos said that retaliation used to take the form of fist fights, but has become more violent and deadly.
"In the old days, [retaliation] wasn't done as severe as it is today," Paulos said. "Today, with the use of firearms, they believe an eye for an eye. People seem to think that death is the settling agent when, in reality, it's not."
It's unclear whether the male target in the shooting is related to Seals, but Paulos said that family members and friends are often caught in the middle of these violent disputes.
"Retaliation takes place quite often ... and they bring in family members or friends to make the score even," Paulos said.
The shooting also underscored the unusual security measures enforced at the Ramsey County courthouse in July while Seals was tried before Judge George Stephenson.
Although all courthouse guests must enter through a metal detector, they were also made to remove their shoes and belts throughout Seals' bench trial. Extra sheriff's deputies and police officers were on hand throughout the trial, and the Seals and Coppage families were carefully separated on different floors. Their departure from the courtroom and that floor were carefully timed and communicated between law enforcement officials. (Seals was out on bail.)
At one point in the July trial, Stephenson sternly addressed both families.
"There has been some friction between the families involved, and some of that has spilled into the courthouse," Stephenson said. "That's not how I play here.
"The is serious business. We're not playing around here."
Authorities were successful in tamping down the powder keg that apparently blew up shortly before midnight on Aug. 16.
According to charges filed last week in Ramsey County District Court: The suspects in the shooting, Timothy A. Langevin and Michael Trevino, were entering the gas station when another man was exiting.
The woman who was driving the man said that two suspects argued with him at the gas station, asking him, "Are you related to the Seals?"
The man returned to the woman's car, and the suspects chased them, fired at the car and turned off on a side road, the complaint said.
The shots were fired in the 1800 block of Ames Avenue, the complaint said. Officers found a dozen .45 caliber shell casings in the area. Witnesses described the suspect vehicle, which matched a car registered to Langevin. Witnesses also described the driver, which matched Langevin, the charges said.
Officers had been at the gas station earlier and saw the suspect car about 11:47 p.m. They ran the plates and found that it was registered to Langevin, whose license was revoked. Officers were unable to stop it before it left the parking lot.
Police were on their way to Langevin's home when they saw the suspect car and conducted a felony stop. Langevin exited the front passenger side. Trevino exited with the car keys in his hand. A 17-year-old boy was also with the men. All three were arrested.
Officers at the scene saw a handgun magazine on the passenger side floorboard and a Heckler and Koch .45 caliber handgun in the door panel compartment, the complaint said.
"Langevin said he was with Trevino and [the 17-year-old] who had words with some people," the complaint said.
Langevin told police that it was the 17-year-old who told Langevin to chase the man's car, the charges said. Langevin also said the teenager grabbed Langevin's gun and fired at the other car in a gang retaliation.
Authorities allege that it was Langevin who pulled the trigger.
Trevino told police he could not recall arguing with anyone at the gas station, and that he was driving the car while drunk, according to the complaint.
"Trevino said he was driving when shots rang out, but he crouched down instead of looking for the source of gunfire," the complaint said. "Trevino denied he ever saw a gun. When asked if he was sorry, Trevino replied, 'Sorry for what?' "
Langevin is charged with one count of drive-by discharge of a firearm. Trevino is charged with one count of aiding an offender. Trevino was also cited for drunken driving.
On Aug. 18, two days after the shooting, Stephenson found Seals, 19, guilty of second-degree manslaughter for killing Coppage, 22.
Coppage was grazed and shot four times, including once in the heart. He had met with Seals and two other men at the BP gas station to buy $300 worth of marijuana. Seals' attorney, John Riemer, said at trial that Coppage pulled out a gun in an attempted robbery, and that Seals fired at him in self-defense.