Sprawled across the kitchen floor, a St. Paul man called out for his father as he died in a gang-related shooting in 2012, a bullet shot through his spinal column and both of his lungs.
Leonard Christian Sr., 56, died March 30, 2102, in his father’s home in the 1000 block of W. Central Avenue, an innocent victim caught in the middle of a violent gang feud.
“ ‘Daddy, daddy, daddy,’ was the last words I heard,” Christian’s brother, Benjamin Christian, testified Wednesday in the trial of Desean L. Thomas, charged in his brother’s death.
Thomas, 23, is on trial in Ramsey County District Court on 10 felony counts ranging from crime committed for the benefit of a gang to first-degree murder.
Authorities allege that Thomas and two men, members of the Hustle Made Mafia, shot at the home shortly before 3 a.m. thinking that Leonard Christian’s son, a member of the rival Gotta Havit gang, was inside.
Benjamin Christian said that he was sleeping in the basement when he heard a loud banging on the back door, several gunshots and then his brother’s last words. His father, who was 86 at the time, and a third brother, who was physically disabled, were also home.
Janet Christian testified that her brother, Leonard, was at the home because he was the main caretaker for their disabled brother, who has since died.
In her opening statements, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Elizabeth Lamin said that Thomas pounded on the back door and then fired his high-powered hunting rifle.
“He fired the rifle over and over again — seven times — into the residence,” Lamin said.
One of Thomas’ attorneys, Bethany O’Neill, told jurors that DNA tests did not match her client to the suspected getaway car or murder weapon. O’Neill and her co-counsel, Lisa Lopez, tried to raise skepticism about some witnesses’ motivation.
Thomas was charged in late 2014 after a “snitch” arrested on an unrelated robbery charge “came forward to cut a deal,” O’Neill said.
Lopez tried to raise doubt about the testimony of Juan E. Martinez, who pleaded guilty Monday to aiding and abetting Christian’s murder.
As part of Martinez’s plea deal, nine charges against him in Christian’s murder were dismissed, a different case against him was dropped and he agreed to testify against Thomas, his longtime friend. (Martinez is not the tipster O’Neill referenced.)
Testimony resumes Thursday.