St. Paul man’s slaying shows violence of drug cartels, prosecutors say
In the hours before Andrew Braun was killed, Maria Luna bought the BB guns that she, Santana Valdez and another man planned to use to scare him into paying his debt.
Luna, Valdez and their cohort lived under bridges. They left the church where they ate a free meal and walked to Braun’s St. Paul home to again try to collect about 5 p.m. on March 18, 2012.
They’d later say they were under pressure from their own drug boss and fearing for their lives if they didn’t get that cash, an estimated $12,000.
“Oh, you’re here,” Braun said, and they all entered his house in the 700 block of East Lawson Avenue.
Planning to rob him, the dealers launched an assault that could only end in death, Prosecutor David Miller had told jurors.
Friday, Ramsey County jurors convicted Valdez, 36, of two counts of second-degree murder. He led the attack by wielding a screwdriver and Samurai sword to slay Braun, who also was attacked with his own bayonet and hammer.
The murder of Andy Braun has not only devastated his family but also represents a societal problem that continues: the flood into the Midwest of cheap, pure methamphetamine from Mexico.
Braun’s murder was tied to a cartel delivering and distributing large amounts of cocaine, meth and marijuana.
Braun’s mother, Linda Braun, said she had worried about her son after learning he was using meth, and then, not long before his death, she got an inkling that he might have begun selling it to help pay his mortgage after he lost his job on a barge crew.
Ramsey County, the St. Paul Police Department and the Safe Streets Task Force, composed of federal, state and local agencies, all were involved in the case said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.
The two others involved had pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Valdez.
Carlos Yobani Flores Amador, 38, is serving a 25-year sentence. Luna, 49, has yet to be sentenced for being an accomplice after the fact. She’s now in prison for dealing drugs.
“The illegal use of drugs is not one of those crimes that some people try to characterize as victimless,” Choi said. “When people are out there buying marijuana or in this case, methamphetamine, there’s a whole host of illegal activities that are associated with it.”
Those include auto thefts, robberies and murder fueled by addictions, he said.
Statewide, about 40 percent of arrests by task forces in 2011 involved methamphetamine.
“There are few places you can go in the state where everybody doesn’t know someone who has been impacted by the meth problem,” said Bob Bushman, former statewide gang and drug task force coordinator.
“It’s the collateral damage that everyone has to deal with,” said Bushman, now president of the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition. “Some of these people came from good families but made bad decisions. It affects the families. It affects the schools. It affects our courts and criminal justice system. It affects our insurance companies. It affects our employers.”