A St. Paul man was convicted Monday of fatally shooting another man in January during a drug deal gone bad.
Antonio R. Seals, 19, waived his right to a jury trial and was tried in July before Ramsey County District Court Judge George Stephenson. The judge issued his decision Monday, finding that Seals was guilty of second-degree manslaughter. Seals was acquitted of the more serious charge of third-degree murder.
Seals had originally been charged with second-degree murder until charges were amended last month.
Seals shot Devonte R. Coppage, 22, of Brooklyn Park, multiple times on Jan. 3 inside a car parked at a BP gas station at Maryland and White Bear avenues in St. Paul. Coppage was grazed and shot four times, including once in the heart.
Seals shot himself in the arm during the incident.
Coppage met with Seals and Seals’ two companions to buy $300 worth of marijuana, according to charges and evidence at trial. Seals’ attorney, John Riemer, said that Coppage pulled out a gun to rob Seals. Seals fired at Coppage in self-defense, Riemer said.
It was clear that Coppage, who had less than $5 despite agreeing to pay $300, planned to rob Seals, Stephenson said.
Coppage had said on social media that he needed money and needed to conduct “big licks,” or robberies, the judge said. Coppage had a gun on him that was found near his body. It had not been fired, Stephenson said.
Although Seals cannot claim self-defense because he put himself in a dangerous situation and should not be able to rely on the law to protect him while adding to the threat with his own loaded firearm, Stephenson said, Coppage’s actions complicated the matter.
“This was — is a very unique case,” Stephenson said.
Seals, who has been out on bail for the last eight months, was immediately taken into custody pending his sentencing on Oct. 7.