Saying retaliation is likely, a prosecutor wants to keep grand jury witnesses' names secret to protect them from harm.
Authorities are linking an ongoing gang feud in St. Paul to last month's fatal shooting of Naressa Turner, who allegedly had a role in or "intimate knowledge" of the killing of a gang member.
Turner, 20, was believed or perceived to have information about "the murder of Dominic Neeley on February 19, 2012," according to Ramsey County District Court documents filed Nov. 6 but made public recently. Neeley, 22, whose slaying remains unsolved, was a member of the East Side Boyz gang, the document said.
Cornelius Bell, 24, was indicted by a grand jury Nov. 14 in Turner's death, but police have not said what role he may have played, citing the ongoing investigation. A court document in an unrelated case from 2011 identified Bell as "an associate" of the East Side Boyz gang while another document from 2009 simply identified him as a "known gang member, drug seller."
"The East Side Boyz gang has had a violent feud with another St. Paul gang known as the Selby Siders or its recent off-shoot gangs for several years," Assistant Ramsey County Attorney David Miller wrote in documents filed with Bell's indictment. "Numerous murders in recent years have been motivated by retaliation for the benefit of a gang between members of these gangs.
"Members of these gangs have and will intimidate, assault or commit arson to prevent witnesses from cooperating with law enforcement and testifying in furtherance of the prosecution of their violent crimes."
Turner's aunt, Tara Green, had said that Turner feared for her life when she started receiving threats via social media because some people thought she had witnessed a killing. Turner fled to Atlanta with her toddler daughter and was killed soon after returning to St. Paul.
According to Miller's documents: Turner was sitting in a vehicle in an alley in the 900 block of Reaney Avenue on Oct. 14. A masked shooter, who was seen by witnesses, approached the car, opened the back door, uttered Turner's nickname, "Nu Nu," and fired multiple shots from a small handgun.
Turner, who was shot at about 2:45 p.m., died at the scene.
"A criminal gang known as the East Side Boyz had members in the area of the shooting, according to several witnesses who knew persons present," Miller wrote.
Miller filed the documents in support of his effort to withhold the names of non-police witnesses who testified Nov. 7 before the grand jury.
"It is highly likely that members of the East Side Boyz would retaliate against persons who they perceive have given information to law enforcement related to the murder of Naressa Turner," Miller wrote. "Such action would expose persons who testify before the grand jury to imminent intimidation or greater violence."
Bell is charged in Turner's death with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder for the benefit of a gang, aiding an offender to avoid arrest and two counts of aiding an offender accomplice after the fact.
There is another sealed indictment in the case, said county spokesman Dennis Gerhardstein, who would not comment further.
Bell was charged Nov. 2 with possession of a firearm by an ineligible person. According to that complaint, on July 13 an informant told police that a man was carrying a handgun near the intersection of Cypress Street and Reaney Avenue.
Police arrived and saw about 25 people milling about. The officers pursued and arrested a suspect, later identified as Bell, who matched the description provided by the informant. A police dog discovered a handgun in a sock on the lawn of 987 Reaney Av., the same block where Turner was shot in October.
Tests of the sock showed a DNA mix of four or more individuals, but the predominant match was to Bell's DNA profile, the complaint said. Bell is not allowed to have a gun because of a 2009 conviction for selling marijuana.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib