A man who was killed with two gunshots to the head while sitting in a car in a southern Minnesota state park has been identified and described Wednesday as a regular visitor to the place where he was killed.
Still a mystery to law enforcement, however, is whether the victim, 23-year-old Spencer D. Brown, and the suspected gunman had known each other before their encounter that night last week.
Brown was fatally shot Aug. 23 at Myre-Big Island State Park near Albert Lea, the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office said. Brown lived in a rural part of the county.
Charged with second-degree murder in Brown’s death is David M. Easter, of Brownsdale, about 30 miles east of the park. Easter, 26, a member of the Minnesota National Guard out of Thief River Falls, remains jailed in lieu of $200,000 bail with a court appearance scheduled on Sept. 8.
On the night of the shooting, Easter claimed he shot in self-defense, contending that Brown came at him with a baseball bat. However, Sheriff Kurt Freitag expressed doubt about that claim, noting that Easter was outside the car and fired twice through a rolled-up driver’s side window, and the car was in reverse while the victim’s foot was on the brake.
Nearby at the time of the gunfire were Easter’s wife and the couple’s infant daughter, according to the complaint. Karla Easter told a deputy at the scene that her husband confronted Brown at the car and the two men exchanged words. She said she heard Brown tell David Easter to quit shining a light on him.
Freitag said Brown “went to school for forestry out west … and just loved our state park. He’d go out there two, three times a week.”
Both men once lived in Omaha, Freitag said. The victim was in a car with Nebraska plates at the time of his death. Also, Karla Easter said her husband has a valid permit from Nebraska to carry a gun.
“We sent two guys out to Nebraska to meet with [Brown’s] family,” Freitag added. “We’re not finding anything, no connection going back to Omaha.”