Hennepin County prosecutors have charged a suspect in the Oct. 28 murder of a 54-year-old man who was found shot to death in a north Minneapolis alley.
Prosecutors say Tyree Johnson, 27, shot Darren P. Watkins — hitting him twice in the left arm, once in the chest and once in the hip — in an alley behind the 5200 block of James Avenue N.
A search of the surrounding area turned up several spent 9mm shell casings and “an automatic lock/unlock button from a vehicle door panel,” prosecutors said.
Johnson, who was already in jail in connection with a separate shooting, has been charged with second-degree murder.
Shortly after gunfire broke out that day, a witnesses reported seeing a suspect in a mustard yellow T-shirt fleeing the scene in what surveillance viewings later determined was a black Volkswagen Passat with distinctive missing silver trim on its bumper, police said. A car matching that description had been spotted at the scene of a shooting the day before, at the McDonald’s restaurant at 916 W. Broadway, according to police.
In that incident, police say that a man, Karul Brown, 38, opened fire on a van full of people who had robbed him earlier in the day, hitting one of them. Police suspect Johnson of furnishing the gun that Brown used and driving the car in which he fled the scene.
Johnson and Brown each face six counts of attempted first-degree murder and a single count of illegal firearms possession in connection with the McDonald’s shooting, court records show. Two of Brown’s suspected assailants, whom police say are associates of the Red Tape street gang, were later charged with the robbery and assault.
Ballistics testing connected the gun used in Watkins’ slaying to two other shootings: the McDonald’s attack on Oct. 27 and an Oct. 22 shooting in Brooklyn Center, police said.
When Brown and Johnson were arrested several days after the homicide on Halloween, they were riding in a black Passat whose front passenger side door was missing “an automatic lock/unlock button similar to the one found in the alley,” according to a criminal complaint filed Friday.
Johnson told detectives that he had been home asleep when the homicide occurred, but police say phone records show that his cellphone was in use around that time, according to the complaint. The records and later interviews showed that shortly before the shooting, Johnson had been in contact with another man about collecting a $30 drug debt, the complaint said.
RETRACTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly included a booking photo supplied by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office of Tyree D. Johnson, who was not involved in the crime. The Star Tribune regrets the error.