Hours after a search Saturday that locked down parts of Mendota Heights, authorities identified a suspect connected to an armed robbery and woman’s death in the Dakota County city.
Lucifer Vincent Nguyen, 44, is being sought in a metrowide manhunt after police say he fatally shot a woman inside an office building on a commercial plaza near Hwy. 110 and Interstate 35E.
Nguyen was described as about 5 feet 5 and 150 pounds, last seen wearing a black T-shirt. His last known address was in Minneapolis, and his criminal record includes convictions for misdemeanor theft and careless driving, along with DWI, a gross misdemeanor.
He is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information about his whereabouts should immediately call the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office at 651-322-2323.
The saga began Saturday morning with a report of a man robbed at gunpoint on Delaware Avenue. By evening, a woman was dead, an assisted-living facility had been evacuated and Nguyen was still at large.
“We’re just asking people to … obviously report anything suspicious,” said Kelly McCarthy, the Mendota Heights police chief.
The investigation quickly expanded from local and county agencies to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which set up a crime scene unit outside the office building.
After the robbery, police pursued Nguyen, who sped off and crashed his vehicle into a swamp near Friendly Marsh Park. He then fled on foot to the White Pine Senior Living center brandishing a handgun.
Law enforcement agencies from Mendota Heights, St. Paul and Dakota and Washington counties blocked off the plaza and surrounded the facility with squad cars, armored trucks and helicopters. Police put the immediate area on lockdown, unsure whether Nguyen was still in the center, McCarthy said.
Crews began to slowly evacuate the 45 people inside. The process extended through the afternoon, as many residents use wheelchairs or walkers.
About 2:30 p.m., McCarthy reported that a woman had been found dead in an office building across the street from the White Pine facility. Mendota Heights police said they believed the suspect was no longer in the immediate area and issued an alert for a missing vehicle to other area police agencies.
Gail Okeson of Woodbury rushed to City Hall to check on her mother, Virginia, 93, who lives at White Pine. While police had asked friends and relatives to gather there, authorities had shuttled the senior residents to a nearby fire station. “They’re all so confused,” said Okeson. “I know my mom was frightened.”
The residents were later returned to White Pine in two Metro Transit buses.
On its Facebook page, Mendota Heights police apologized for the 12-hour delay in releasing a detailed suspect description. “We have to ensure that the information we are putting out is correct, and it takes time to validate these things,” officials wrote, thanking residents for their patience. “We also have to take into consideration the timing of our information and contamination of witness descriptions.”
The commercial plaza at the center of Saturday’s activity contains a handful of restaurants and businesses, most of which remained closed while the area was on lockdown. The unidentified woman’s body was found in a building that includes a dental office, law and insurance firms and offices for Minuteman Press.