Citing a lack of evidence, prosecutors this week dismissed murder charges against a 25-year-old man in connection with a shooting outside a Brooklyn Park market more than two years ago that left a young father dead.

Benjamin P. Richardson was released from the Hennepin County jail Wednesday evening, hours after District Judge Jay Quam ordered his immediate release. During a court hearing Wednesday Richardson's defense attorney argued there was a lack of evidence to implicate him in the shooting that killed Alameen Allah Shabazz. Prosecutor Andrew Johnson wrote in the official dismissal that "Insufficient evidence is currently available to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial."

Family members waited all day to embrace Richardson, who spent seven months in jail after he was arrested in January in a suburb of Lynchburg, Va.. At one point he was offered a 33-year sentence if he entered a guilty plea to second-degree murder. He refused.

"I feel amazing. It feels good to be innocent, finally proven," Richardson said in a phone interview Thursday morning.

Charges don't indicate a motive for the June 22, 2021, shooting outside the Nice Family African Market in Brooklyn Park that killed Shabazz, who was headed home from visiting his newborn son at a hospital. His son was born prematurely 11 days earlier.

Defense attorney Sarah Gad said the Shabazz family is left without justice while Richardson now has to live with the stigma of a murder accusation.

"All the evidence points elsewhere," Gad said.

Zykeya Matthews, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree murder in November. According to court transcripts, Shabazz's family thought the probation she received wasn't justice and that she showed no remorse for being the getaway driver.

But Gad said no DNA or fingerprint evidence tied Richardson to being the drive-by shooter.

The case relied on the testimony of Matthews and Shabazz's girlfriend, Megan Ruechel, but Ruechel couldn't identify Richardson in a photo lineup.

She told police Shabazz was walking toward the market entrance when a silver car pulled up beside her vehicle. She said a man had his arm hanging out the window and she heard six to eight gunshots and saw Shabazz fall to the ground.

A market employee and five children, ages 5 to 12, were interviewed by police. They heard the shots but didn't see the shooter.

Another driver told police that he saw the car driven by a young Black woman, later identified as Matthews.

Charges say that "after a lengthy investigation and by witnesses from the scene," Richardson was identified as the shooter. But Gad said police identified Richardson in gas station surveillance video 10 minutes away from the crime scene shortly after the shooting in a different vehicle.

When Matthews was questioned by police, she implicated Richardson as the shooter.

"To this day the only evidence linking Mr. Richardson to the murder is the uncorroborated testimony" of Matthews, Gad's motion for dismissal reads.

The Hennepin County Attorney's Office said in a statement that it could recharge Richardson after agreeing to dismiss the case. If prosecutors didn't dismiss, the judge could have ruled lack of probable cause and dropped the case, which would mean prosecutors couldn't refile charges against Richardson.

"After extensive review of all available evidence in this case, there is currently insufficient evidence to support a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt," the statement said. "Therefore, the State was forced to dismiss the case at this point to ensure it can be recharged if additional evidence becomes available."

A Brooklyn Park Police Department spokesman said in a statement that "We were recently made aware of the dismissal of murder charges."

"We trust the professional and thorough review that the Hennepin County Attorney's Office has given this case. This case will remain open and active with our agency."

Richardson's mother, Monique Flowers, said she drained her savings account to make a down payment to hire Gad, who's a former seven-time convicted felon for nonviolent drug offenses and who graduated from law school in 2020.

Flowers said she was saddened to hear prosecutors say they were dropping the case not because they think her son is innocent but because they don't have enough to prove he's guilty. But she said it was a relief to see her son finally come home.

"He was just happy to be able to breathe," she said. "He hasn't had fresh air."

Richardson said he first learned he was a suspect when he was arrested in Virginia, where he has lived since 2020. He said he comes home to Minneapolis frequently to see family and his children.

He said he was at a friend's party the night of the shooting and didn't know Shabazz.

"It's a tragic situation," he said, "but I just hope they figure out what real situation went on between whoever those people were."