Suspect killed in Inver Grove Heights liquor store robbery

The manager of Trail Liquors in Inver Grove Heights was wounded after wrestling over the suspect's gun.

Fearing he would be shot if he let the liquor store robber tie him up, Matt Huerta made a grab for the gun.

As the two men struggled for control of the weapon at Trail Liquors in Inver Grove Heights Thursday morning, it fired several times. The suspect was hit in the chest and died several hours later. Huerta was able to call 911 for help and is recovering at a St. Paul hospital.

Minutes before the scuffle, the suspect had walked into the store and demanded money from the cash register.

The suspect then walked Huerta, the store manager, to a back room and demanded he open the safe.

Huerta, the only employee in the store at about 10:30 a.m., told the man he didn't know the combination.

"The robber wanted to tie Matt up, and Matt thought if he was tied up, he could be shot,'' said Kathleen Schneider, the store's co-owner. When the man put the gun in the top of his pants, Huerta went to grab it, she said. That's when the scuffle began. The gun apparently discharged several times, she said.

Shots hit the suspect in the chest and the manager in the leg, according to investigators.

The manager then called 911 to report an armed robbery, said Lt. Jerry Salmey, a spokesman for the Inver Grove Heights police.

Huerta, 57, of Rosemount, was listed in good condition at Regions Hospital in St. Paul on Thursday. He declined requests for interviews.

The suspect's name won't be released until family members are notified, the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's office said Thursday night.

Huerta is in "disbelief" over what happened, Schneider said. "He said it probably all happened in 15 minutes, but it felt like 15 hours."

"You just never think something like this is going to happen,'' Schneider said. "It's so tragic to think that someone would try to do this for a couple hundred dollars."

Police collected evidence Thursday afternoon from the store, nestled in a grove of trees at 9740 S. Robert Trail, also called Hwy. 3. Police obtained warrants to search the store and the suspect's sedan.

Salmey said video from a surveillance camera inside the store should help investigators more fully understand what happened inside Trail Liquors.

Staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report. mlsmith@startribune.com • 612-673-4788 jadams@startribune.com • 612-673-7658

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