A St. Paul man who left a gun unattended while watching his girlfriend's 2-year-old son fled the state after the boy accidentally shot himself last week, charges say.
Earl Williams, 39, was charged in Ramsey County District Court with second-degree manslaughter and illegal possession of a firearm in the death of Jayse Damir Wilson. Williams turned himself in on Christmas — roughly 24 hours after prosecutors charged him via sealed warrant.
Court records show he is on probation in Ramsey County and is ineligible to possess a firearm. Williams remains jailed in lieu of $250,000 bail.
Jayse's death marked St. Paul's 34th homicide of 2020 — tying the capital city's deadliest year of 1992.
The toddler is among more than 280 children who picked up a firearm and accidentally shot themselves or someone else in the United States this year, according to a database compiled by the gun control advocacy group Everytown USA. Of those, at least four occurred in Minnesota, including one case where a 3-year-old unintentionally shot and killed his 2-year-old brother after finding an unsecured firearm in their Brooklyn Park home last August.
According to the criminal complaint against Williams:
Officers were called to a North End apartment building at 850 Rice St. about 1:15 p.m. Wednesday on a report of a child who had "hurt his head." On arrival, they learned that the toddler suffered a gunshot wound to the forehead. He died in the ambulance about eight minutes later.
Investigators found a pool of blood on the bathroom floor and recovered a shell casing nearby. They noted a bullet hole high up toward the ceiling.
The boy's mother told police she'd received a frantic phone call from Williams, who told her to come home because Jayse had shot himself in the head. He explained that he'd left a gun in the bathroom and that the boy "got to it," charges say.
Jayse's sister, one of three teenage siblings who were home at the time of the shooting, reported hearing a loud bang while watching TV in the living room. When she got up to check on her brother, Williams walked in and told her to wait there. He started pacing between rooms, gathered a bag and ordered her to call 911 before leaving the apartment. Ten minutes had already passed since the gunshot rang out, according to the complaint.
After he left, she found the boy mortally wounded in the bathroom and rushed to get her siblings for help. A dispatcher instructed them to move the boy into the bedroom and begin performing CPR.
Surveillance video caught Williams, who was carrying a bag, walking toward the building's garage while talking on his cellphone, then hopping into a nearby car and driving away. He reportedly fled to Iowa before returning two days later.
No gun was ever found.
Jayse's sister told police that she'd never seen a firearm lying around the apartment or on Williams that day. But the boy's mother acknowledged seeing Williams with handguns in the past. She does not own a gun.
Williams' attorney declined to comment on the case when reached by phone Monday.
Williams has previous felony convictions for cocaine possession and receiving stolen property — crimes that prevent him from lawfully possessing a firearm, court records show. Ramsey County District Judge George Stephenson stayed 17- and 24-month prison sentences for those cases in 2019, sentencing him instead to five years of probation. Conditions prohibit him from possessing any guns, explosives or ammunition, including replica or toy guns.
His criminal record also includes several previous felonies from Illinois dating back to 2002 for armed home invasion, robbery, sexual assault and drug-related offenses.
Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648