A 26-year-old man fired two fatal shots to the head of a man sitting in a car in a state park in southern Minnesota and then claimed self-defense, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday.
David M. Easter, who lives in Brownsdale, about 30 miles east of the park, was charged Thursday in Freeborn County District Court with second-degree murder and appeared in court later in the day. The victim’s identity has yet to be released.
In rejecting Easter’s application Thursday for a public defender, Judge Steven Schwab noted that the defendant is on the payroll of the Minnesota National Guard.
Easter is a private based out of Thief River Falls who began serving in 2012, said Maj. Scott Hawks, a Guard spokesman. Easter’s wife, Karla, also is a Guard member and is based in Faribault with the rank of sergeant, Hawks said. The two have been married since May 2015.
David Easter called 911 around 9:15 p.m. Tuesday to report the shooting at Myre-Big Island State Park near Albert Lea, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Nearby at the time of the gunfire were his wife and the couple’s infant daughter, according to the complaint. Karla Easter told a deputy at the scene that her husband confronted the victim at the car and the two men exchanged words.
She said she heard the victim tell David Easter to quit shining a light on him. She heard the gunshots and saw the man in the car was wounded.
David Easter surrendered peacefully when officers arrived and turned over a .45-caliber pistol. The weapon recovered is not a military-issued firearm, Hawks said.
The complaint noted that David Easter has a valid gun permit from Nebraska. However, Minnesota does not have a permit-to-carry reciprocity agreement with Nebraska. Karla Easter said her husband usually carries a pistol, the charging document read.
David Easter told authorities that the victim had come at him with a baseball bat, said Sheriff Kurt Freitag.
However, Freitag added, “there’s no evidence to support that” version. The sheriff said Easter was outside the car and fired twice through a rolled-up driver’s side window. The car was in reverse, with the victim’s foot on the brake.
Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Earl said a positive ID has been complicated by the fact that the victim was shot in the face.
Earl said fingerprints are being checked by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and that a review of dental records may be necessary before his identity can be confirmed.
Also still to be revealed is whether the men knew each other before the deadly encounter. They both once lived in Omaha, Freitag said. The victim was in a car with Nebraska plates at the time of his death. The sheriff said that the man they believe is the victim has lived in Freeborn County since May.
Easter’s attorney said Thursday that they were still reviewing the case.
“It’s too early for us to comment,” said Dan Donnelly of Donnelly Law Office in Austin, Minn.