On eve of trial, alleged robber admits he'd likely be found guilty

  • Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 2, 2013 - 11:47 PM

The 20-year-old man will be sentenced in February in so-called Craigslist heists.

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A makeshift memorial last August on the corner of Cypress Street and Wakefield Avenue in St. Paul honored Aung Thu Bo.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

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A Minneapolis man on Wednesday entered an Alford plea to robbing people at gunpoint of cellphones and cash last summer.

The trial for Gabriel R. Kimbrough, 20, was scheduled to begin Thursday. He had been charged with three counts of first-degree aggravated robbery for three armed heists that occurred on June 27 and Aug. 4. An Alford plea means that Kimbrough didn't admit guilt, only that a prosecutor would likely have proven the crime beyond a reasonable doubt in two of the counts.

Prosecutors were preparing to argue that Kimbrough had access to firearms and connections to robbers and that he was part of a scheme in which robberies were being carried out within a short time frame, within one to three miles of each other, in St. Paul.

Court papers show prosecutors were set to give a glimpse into a world where robbers schemed to carry out such heists, sometimes by luring people through Craigslist.

Three robberies occurred Aug. 3-4 in St. Paul, and in one case the victim -- an Oakdale resident -- was hit in the mouth with a gun. That incident, on Aug. 4, took place in the afternoon not far from Dayton's Bluff Recreation Center.

The shooting death of the 19-year-old student, Aung Thu Bo, was the fourth instance in a week in which a victim was lured in St. Paul by someone advertising an iPhone for sale on Craigslist, police said then.

Bo, who was born in a Thailand refugee camp and had come to America at age 6, was slain on the afternoon of Aug. 10. Bo's girlfriend was in the car and saw Bo get shot in the head.

Police looking for the suspect went to a house at 723 Plum St. and arrested Steven E. Lewis, 27, of Maplewood, on suspicion of killing Bo. They also arrested Kimbrough, and officers seized a gun at the Plum Street residence that matched the description of a gun used in the Aug. 4 robbery.

Lewis allegedly had held Bo at gunpoint in a car, demanding his wallet, and the gun went off, a criminal complaint says. Lewis was charged in Ramsey County District Court with second-degree murder and aggravated robbery in connection with Bo's death.

Bo had been an honor student at Central High School who loved math, and he was just beginning to pursue a computer science degree at Hamline University. He had volunteered at Lyngblomsten nursing home, where his mother worked, since he was 10.

Kimbrough, who is to be sentenced in February, was never charged with the homicide. He faces a minimum of 58 months in prison for concurrent sentences on the robberies.

Joy Powell • 651-925-5038

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