A citizen who pursued an armed robber and fatally shot him last week in south Minneapolis acted in self-defense and will not face criminal charges, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Friday.
The man who killed Darren Evanovich last week was not identified to protect his safety and the integrity of the investigation, a Minneapolis police spokesman said. Police had turned over the case to the county attorney, who said the confrontation between Evanovich and the citizen occurred after a series of robberies this month outside a strip mall on E. Lake Street.
On Oct. 20, the man saw Evanovich pistol-whip a woman and take her purse. The witness, who had a permit to carry a handgun, drove up to Evanovich and asked for the purse back. Evanovich pointed his gun at the man and told him to mind his own business, and the man, still sitting in his car, aimed his own weapon and fired, according to a criminal complaint.
"While this man is to be commended for helping his fellow citizen in need, a note of caution is appropriate," Freeman said in a statement. "We prefer that armed citizens do not chase after criminals. Too much can go wrong, with deadly consequences. It is our preference to have our highly trained and armed police force respond in these kinds of cases."
Freeman also announced that Evanovich's sister, Octavia Shonte Marberry, has been charged in a series of violent robberies that culminated with her brother's shooting. Told of the prosecutor's announcement Friday, Evanovich's mother, Mary, reacted with disbelief.
"They're not going to press charges against the man who killed my son? Are you all serious?" she said. "That man chased my son down and gunned him down."
Nine days before his death, Evanovich, 23, gave an interview on video that an anti-violence group intended to show to at-risk youths.
Local MAD DADS leader V.J. Smith said Evanovich hadn't been active in the group for four years when he dropped in unexpectedly at Smith's office Oct. 11 and warned other youths not to follow his troubled path. MAD DADS stands for Men Against Destruction - Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder.
"He was never in our world for a long while," said Smith on Friday. "He had just showed up."
The day after Evanovich gave his video interview, the first of three robberies took place in the parking lots on E. Lake Street. They happened at the same time of night and targeted the same sort of victim: a middle-aged woman walking alone to her car.
In the first two robberies, on Oct. 12 and Oct. 15, Marberry and her accomplices got away with a wallet, car keys and a purse after brandishing a knife and threatening the women, according to the criminal complaint.
At 9:52 p.m. on Oct. 20, a 53-year-old woman was leaving Cub Foods at 2850 26th Av. S. when she was accosted by Evanovich, his sister and another man, according to a criminal complaint. After he was shot by the witness, Evanovich died in the parking lot in his sister's arms.
Marberry has been charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree robbery, according to a criminal complaint.
She was picked out of a photo lineup by the victim of the Oct. 12 robbery, the complaint said. Surveillance video shows Marberry using the woman's credit card and checks shortly after the robbery, according to the charges. Surveillance video also shows Marberry using the credit card of the woman robbed Oct. 15 shortly after the robbery, the complaint said. That woman also recognized Marberry's headscarf as the one worn by her assailant.
Court papers released Friday said surveillance footage from Target appears to show Mary Evanovich using checks stolen from one of her daughter's robbery victims. Mary Evanovich, when asked about the allegation, denied that she used the stolen checks. "No, not at all," she said.
The story of Evanovich's shooting was retold this week on several Internet forums and chat groups devoted to gun rights, with commentators affirming the legality of the shooting.
Gary Shade, a firearms instructor based in Apple Valley, said he agreed with the Hennepin County attorney's decision to not press charges against the shooter, though he generally discourages his students from chasing suspected criminals.
"Not knowing all of the information in the case, it sounds like he was well within his rights," said Shade. "He didn't have the gun out. He didn't threaten the guy with a gun until he felt threatened. He certainly has a right to demand a purse back."
Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747