St. Paul police: Murder happened over cell-phone fight

  • Article by: JIM ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 28, 2010 - 10:36 PM

Man charged with a murder in Merriam Park shot the victim multiple times with an assault rifle, police say.

A 20-year-old St. Paul man has been charged with second-degree murder after using an assault-type rifle to gun down Joe Anthony Rivera early Sunday as they left a party in the city's Merriam Park neighborhood, according to a criminal complaint.

A witness told police that Aaron J. Morrow opened fire on Rivera, 21, and two other young men who approached Morrow's car at 3:30 a.m. after a dispute on Oakley Avenue over a missing cell phone, charges said. Rivera's friend, David Chavez, also 21, was shot and wounded. The third man was not hit.

One of the men said the unarmed Rivera had raised his arms before he was shot as the other two fled, the complaint says.

When questioned by police after his arrest, Morrow said he picked Rivera from the three because he was the largest, and he "shot center mass, like how they teach you at the range." He told police he didn't know how many times he shot Rivera, the complaint says, but shot him at least once more as he lay on the ground dying of gunshot wounds.

Morrow, who told police he bought the Romanian AK-47-type gun off the street for cash, is also charged with two counts of attempted second-degree murder.

A second suspect arrested in the shooting and who, like Morrow, is also 20 and lives on the city's West End, was released from Ramsey County Jail pending further investigation.

Prosecutors were seeking $1 million bail for Morrow.

According to the complaint, Rivera and Chavez were leaving a party in an apartment in the 500 block of Prior Avenue, where the second suspect had accused Chavez of stealing his cell phone. Rivera and Chavez denied stealing the phone, and refused to let the suspect search Chavez.

As they left the party with the third man, they were beckoned to the car where Morrow was standing, with the second suspect sitting in the passenger seat. The witness told police Morrow opened fire without warning.

The second suspect told police that "if he had known Morrow was going to do this, he would have ... tried to talk him out of it," the complaint says.

Morrow and the second suspect were arrested a short time later at Morrow's home. Police recovered the rifle and an empty banana bullet clip from a garage at the home of Morrow's aunt and uncle in South St. Paul.

Jim Anderson • 651-735-0999

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