Alexander Weiss was driving to his Sunday morning job refereeing youth basketball in Rochester when he saw what should have been a routine winter driving mishap — a car sliding through an intersection.
Weiss pulled up behind it and rolled to a stop. Suddenly, the other car backed up into Weiss' Subaru.
What happened next was spelled out Wednesday in a criminal complaint that said Weiss, 25, of Rochester, who has a legal permit to carry a gun, shot the teenage driver of the other car at point-blank range when a confrontation flared.
The Olmsted County attorney charged Weiss, who says he acted in self-defense, with second-degree murder in the death of Muhammed Rahim, 17, the middle child of a family that fled Iraq six years ago. The charge is a felony that, with a conviction, carries a potential prison sentence of three to 40 years.
Weiss was arrested and jailed. He has since been released on bail.
Rahim's passenger told police that he thought Weiss wanted to fight after the collision. He said he and Rahim threatened Weiss and that Rahim even dared Weiss to shoot him. There were no punches thrown, according to police, but Weiss said Rahim shoved him once in the chest.
The encounter began around 8:20 a.m. Sunday as Rahim, with three passengers in his car, was driving to a large apartment complex near the intersection of East River Road and 31st Street NE. to pick up a friend.
Rahim tried to make a right turn through the intersection but instead slid into the curb and partway into a ditch, according to police.
Weiss came to a stop behind Rahim's Chevrolet Cavalier, later telling police that he intended to get out of his car to check on the Cavalier's occupants, according to the criminal complaint. Before he could do so, however, the Cavalier reversed and hit Weiss' car.
The complaint spelled out three versions of the shooting — one from Rahim's passenger, one from Weiss, and a third from a passerby.
According to the passenger, after the vehicles collided, Weiss got out of his car "as if he wished to fight." The passenger said he and Rahim yelled at Weiss and threatened to fight him. The passenger said Rahim got very close to Weiss, but that neither he nor Rahim touched Weiss.
The passenger said Weiss then pulled out a gun and pointed it at Rahim, who said, "I [expletive] dare you to do it." Weiss then shot Rahim once in the chest, the complaint said.
Weiss, who gave a slightly different account, said he got out of his car to get the attention of the Cavalier's occupants. He said a male passenger exited Rahim's car and started to yell profanities at him, the complaint said.
Weiss said he would call the police. At that point, he said, the passenger in Rahim's car said he would beat up Weiss and started to walk toward him.
Weiss told the passenger to stop so that they could get the situation sorted out. The passenger stopped.
Weiss said he feared for his safety and returned to his Subaru to get his phone and firearm, a Glock 19 with a 17-round magazine he kept in the glove compartment. He put the gun in his pants pocket and told the passenger that he was armed and "should not do anything stupid."
Rahim, meanwhile, moved the Cavalier to the other side of the street while his passenger argued with Weiss, Weiss told police. Rahim then got out of his car and started to yell at Weiss, saying he caused the collision and that Rahim and his passenger were going to beat up Weiss.
Weiss told police that Rahim was a few inches from his face before shoving him in the chest. Weiss said he then pulled the gun out of his pocket and pointed it at the ground to show Rahim that he was armed. He also told Rahim that he would detain him, if he had to, until police arrived.
Weiss said Rahim responded, "That's not even a real gun," and spat at Weiss. Weiss said Rahim then reached for the gun, so he backed up and told Rahim to stop. Weiss then cocked the gun by pulling back the slide and shot Rahim at "point-blank" range.
Weiss called police after the shooting.
The passerby's account
A passerby who saw the confrontation told authorities that she saw two figures standing on the road 2 to 3 feet from each other, the complaint said.
The witness said one of the men pulled a gun from his pocket, raised it and fired once at the other person. The witness said the victim was not touching the gunman, raising a fist at him or advancing toward him when he was shot, according to the complaint.
The witness then drove away and flagged down a nearby police officer.
Weiss has no public statement for now, said his attorney James McGeeney. The lifelong resident of southeastern Minnesota has no criminal record other than a traffic violation.
He volunteers at his church, the YMCA and elsewhere, McGeeney said, and has attended both Rochester Community and Technical College and the University of Minnesota in Rochester.
His next court appearance has not been scheduled.
Star Tribune staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report. Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747