One month to the day after a Crystal man was fatally shot on a west metro highway while driving home from his son's ballgame, hundreds of family members, friends and other mourners gathered Friday in a Plymouth church to remember Jay Boughton as police pressed their search for the motorist who is responsible.
"Today is a beautiful day to celebrate Jay," said brother-in-law Stephen Robinson, speaking on a sun-drenched afternoon to journalists in a retail parking lot a few hundred yards from the entrance to Messiah United Methodist Church, where services were later held.
"The world is kind of an angry, crazy place right now," Robinson said, "and at the same time, we are seeing some of the wonderful sides of humanity in areas that a lot of people have doubts about."
Boughton, 56, was shot in the head about 10 p.m. July 6 as he drove south on Hwy. 169 near Rockford Road on the eastern edge of Plymouth. His vehicle then went through a fence and crashed into the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 3900 block of N. Lancaster Lane, where his 15-year-old son Harrison gave him CPR.
Police Chief Erik Fadden has said a traffic altercation "escalated quickly," and the shooter may have killed Boughton over something as minor as a lane change.
Traffic surveillance video shows the shooter's SUV heading west on Interstate 694 near N. Snelling Avenue in Arden Hills before exiting onto southbound Hwy. 169 and then pulling up on the left of Boughton's vehicle and briefly pacing it before the shooting.
Police said they have been looking for a silver Suburban LT, model year 2015 to 2020, possibly with damage to the driver's side rear bumper.
Fadden remained tight-lipped Friday about any progress in finding the killer, again citing his concern about compromising the investigation.
Despite no arrest in what the chief has called "a senseless act," he did say at the outdoor media briefing, "Our detectives are extremely busy and continue to be very busy, and I am optimistic that every day we're getting one step closer to closing the case in this horrible incident."
Also Friday, the chief created uncertainty about whether police have located the suspect's vehicle. Fadden repeated his plea for help from the public to find the suspect, but he did not do the same when it came to the SUV.
When questioned during the news conference about the SUV's whereabouts, Fadden declined to say either way whether it has been found.
"I'm not able to confirm that, no," the chief said when pressed.
While the family yearns for the closure that an arrest would bring, Robinson said, they are primarily focused on remembering Boughton and continuing to nurture everyone who knew him.
"Let's be clear that what happened to Jay was evil, but we're not focused on that as a family," he said. "We want to focus on the life that Jay is and the love for the family."
Robinson added that he and the rest of the family "have complete faith that they will find and apprehend the person responsible for this terrible act [and] bring some closure to that piece of it."
Robinson recalled how even in death, his brother-in-law could touch him in a positive and unanticipated way. He recalled growing impatient the other week at a grocery store while a woman ahead of him in line was questioning the price of an item and preparing to have her many coupons scanned.
"Jay hit me then. I said, 'Why am I angry?' " Robinson said. "And I realized that I was self-focused at that time. It was about me, right. It wasn't about her.
"If I was Jay and was others-focused, right, I see the beauty in this woman who was just trying to buy groceries for her family and do it at a reasonable price. That's how Jay would look at things. And immediately that anger vanished. Anger leads to hate, hate leads to evil. And evil is what took Jay out."
The reward money collected in hopes of drawing out information leading to an arrest continues to grow — the total now stands at $13,500 — with $10,000 donated last week by the Minneapolis law firm Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben.
Police said they have received more than 300 tips. Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact CrimeStoppers of Minnesota at 1-800-222-8477. Tips can also be submitted at crimestoppersmn.org. Tips can be submitted anonymously.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482