A 15-year sentence has been given to a 23-year-old man who fatally shot a fellow St. Paul gas station customer last year.

Ts'John T. Reed, 23, of Minneapolis, was sentenced in Ramsey County District Court last week in connection with the killing of 28-year-old Darius K. Van on May 1, 2020.

Reed, who held a government-issued permit to carry a firearm in public, initially claimed he shot Van in self-defense before pleading guilty in June to second-degree unintentional murder.

"Despite Reed having his permit to carry having taken a class on firearms handling, including conflict avoidance and de-escalation, he completely disregarded his training," the prosecution said in a court filing leading up to sentencing. "Reed was arrogant and reckless in the care required to handle a firearm and Van lost his life because of it and put many more lives in potential jeopardy.

"The level of callousness and disregard for human life displayed by Reed not only warrants but demands an aggravated sentence with an upward departure to 240 months [20 years]."

With credit for the 18 months he has spent in jail since his arrest, Reed will serve roughly the first 8 ½ years in prison and the balance on supervised release.

According to the criminal complaint, officers responded to the gas station at 1184 E. Maryland Av. around 9:15 p.m. and saw that Van had been shot twice inside the Mini Pac market.

Two women told police that a verbal spat began after Van attempted to reclaim his place in line for the register after briefly stepping away. Reed got angry, and the men exchanged words before bumping each other.

Surveillance footage captured Reed pulling a handgun from his jacket and pointing it at Van, who was surrounded by people. Van challenged Reed to fight outside, briefly left the market and returned. The men struggled, and Reed fired at Van.

In a presentence memorandum filed with the court that argued for a term of 10 ⅔ years, defense attorney Bruce Rivers sought to validate his client's self-defense claim, calling Van "upset and very aggressive."

"During this whole interaction," Rivers continued. "Van is blocking the one exit that [Reed] could access; the front door. … At one point, Van charged at Mr. Reed. The speed and ferocity with which Mr. Van charged at Mr. Reed cannot be understated. Mr. Reed fired an initial shot at Van as Van was charging towards him."

Prosecutors, in their own filing before sentencing, said, "This minor mutual dispute quickly became physical and was instigated by Reed, who shouldered Van at the counter. … Reed's reaction was to immediately turn to violence. It took mere seconds for Reed to up the ante ... and he followed through to fatality."

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482