Man at wheel convicted in killing of Brian Cole

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 30, 2008 - 9:45 PM

Lincoln Caldwell, 22, was found guilty of first-degree murder and five other counts in the drive-by shooting of the North High basketball star during the 2006 Juneteenth festival.

The man behind the wheel in the 2006 drive-by shooting death of a North High School basketball star was convicted quickly Friday of first-degree murder.

So quickly, in fact, that the mother of his victim was unable to get back to the courtroom to hear the verdict.

The Hennepin County District Court jury took only 90 minutes to convict Lincoln Caldwell, 22, on the murder charge and five other counts, too.

He will be sentenced on Monday by District Court Judge Peter Cahill and is expected to get life without the possibility of parole for his role in the death of 18-year-old Brian Cole during the Juneteenth festival in north Minneapolis.

Kirk Harrison, 22, pulled the trigger that rainy afternoon on the 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun that he fired multiple times into a crowd. After a bench trial earlier this year, Judge Jack Nordby convicted him of second-degree unintentional murder and acquitted him of other charges.

"I wanted to be there today just to see his face when the verdict was read," said Carol Turner, Brian's mother. Unlike the verdict in Harrison's case, Turner said she felt some satisfaction and closure, but added, "My son is still dead."

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Hilary Caligiuri argued in her closing that Caldwell was the ringleader that day, out to earn points as a killer. He had multiple nicknames, including Double L Mookie, Blood Mookie and Murder Mook. He bragged about the killing to friends, Caligiuri said. "You tell people because you want people to think you're a killer," she said. "That's street credibility. That's rank within the gang."

The jury agreed with Caligiuri's contention that Caldwell was a member of the Lyndale-Lowry gang, also known as the Cash Money boys. He has large tattoos on each arm. One reads cash, the other money.

Caldwell sat quietly with his lawyer, Arthur Martinez, as Cahill read the six guilty verdicts that also included first-degree drive-by murder and second-degree drive-by murder. He also was convicted of doing the killing for the benefit of a gang.

In his closing, Martinez argued that the witnesses against Caldwell were predominantly self-motivated and receiving deals for their testimony favorable to the prosecution. He argued that "Kirk Harrison took it on his own" to shoot into the crowd because it included prominent members of the 19 Block Dipset gang, a fierce rival to the Lyndale-Lowry gang years ago.

But Caligiuri said it was Caldwell who brought the gun that day and drove the red SUV past the crowd, plotting to shoot at rivals. He handed the gun back to Harrison, who fired the shots.

Cole was shot once in the arm, but the bullet took a tragic path through his neck, severing a jugular vein and his trachea. Witnesses saw him clutching his throat and blood spurting from his mouth. Cole died quickly after he was taken to a hospital.

He was not a gang member and intended to go to college. But he had grown up on the north side and had known many gang members since childhood. Many of them stood together under a tree seeking shelter from the rain during the Juneteenth festival.

Martinez called the verdict disappointing. "We're certainly going to appeal," he said. "It was surprising to say the least."

Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747

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