After a bitter child-custody battle, a Minneapolis man and his girlfriend hatched a plan to ambush and shoot the mother of his child while she picked their son up from a child-care center on April 20, according to charges filed by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office on Monday.

Timothy Allen Amacher, 41, and his girlfriend, 24-year-old Colleen Purificacion Larson, are both charged with attempted first-degree premeditated murder for the shooting of Nicole Lenway outside FamilyWise, a supervised parenting facility on University and Malcolm avenues SE. Amacher also faces a charge of aiding an accomplice after the fact.

First responders found Lenway, a forensic scientist for the Minneapolis Police Department, bleeding from gunshots to the arm and neck outside the child-care center's parking lot just after 7:30 p.m. "It appears she will survive," according to the complaint, despite internal injuries, including a perforated lung, and a "through and through" bullet wound to the arm.

When police visited her in the hospital, Lenway could not speak but communicated with the officers by writing.

According to the complaint:

Six minutes before the shooting, surveillance video from outside the Prospect Park child-care center shows Larson "scouting out" the parking lot of FamilyWise, driving slowly in a Dodge Ram with no license plates and later walking by. After Lenway pulled up, Larson stepped out of the truck and hid behind a fence, wearing all black, a hood, medical mask and gloves.

Lenway walked to the door of the day care, and Larson ran up behind her and raised a gun to her neck. The surveillance video didn't capture the shooting, but a witness saw a woman run up behind Lenway, raise "an object" to her neck and then heard "two bangs." When police arrived, the witness had pressed her jacket on Lenway's neck to help stop the bleeding.

At the time, Amacher was inside the parenting center with their 5-year-old son. Family court orders restricted his contact with the child to supervised visits and prohibited any contact between him and Lenway.

Amacher told police the shooter was most likely someone targeting her for working for the Minneapolis Police Department. Larson said she was at home when the shooting took place.

Through GPS and cellphone data, police discovered Amacher and Larson had switched vehicles earlier that day, and Larson had driven Amacher's Dodge to the child-care center, then back to their home in St. Paul afterward. Surveillance footage from the route showed her inside the truck, with the license plates stripped off. Police say Amacher installed a new temporary license plate and applied decals to his truck after the shooting.

Police searched their home and found bullets from a .380-caliber handgun, the same type of firearm used in the shooting. Amacher said he previously owned two .380 pistols.

Employees at the parenting center told police Larson may be the shooter, suggesting a "difficult family history" between Amacher and Lenway.

Family history

In February, the court had restricted Amacher's custody to supervised visits only, for which Amacher had to pay the supervision fee.

That month, he "propositioned one of his friends to kill [Lenway] in exchange for $50,000," according to the criminal complaint. "Investigators corroborated that this conversation occurred through interviews of multiple witnesses and examination of phone records."

Looking into Lenway and Amacher's history, police discovered records of "domestic violence and extreme harassment and stalking behavior by Amacher," according to the criminal complaint. From 2019 to 2022, Amacher made 10 reports that Lenway had abused their son, but police found them all to be unfounded. In one of those, their son told a social worker Amacher had instructed him to lie about being abused.

Just three and a half hours before the shooting, someone identifying themselves as Larson e-mailed the Star Tribune on behalf of Amacher making similar allegations as the ones police deemed unfounded, asking reporters to investigate how "family court is not helping a child being abused."

The e-mail said Amacher was "fighting to protect his son but is being denied all parental rights and made out to be the bad guy," and that "he was concerned for his son's health and safety and his mother's unwillingness to let him see his son."

Amacher and Larson are in custody. Prosecutors have asked that both be held in lieu of $1 million bail, citing the sophistication of the crime and Amacher's "affinity for firearms."