Jurors deliberating whether a fatal shooting in St. Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood last year was an act of self-defense or coldblooded murder will have to sift through conflicting testimony from the shooter and one of the victims, a self-admitted methamphetamine user who survived a hail of 24 bullets.
Both men testified at trial, providing starkly different versions of events and details that have been characterized by opposing attorneys as lies and acts of self-preservation. The case went to jurors about 1:40 p.m. Friday after closing arguments.
Scott A. Klund Jr., 30, is on trial in Ramsey County District Court on one count of second-degree murder with intent for killing Charlotte A. Rawls, 52, and attempted second-degree murder with intent for shooting Ray Gruer, 31, and slicing his throat on May 7, 2016.
Klund’s attorneys, Elizabeth Switzer and Aaron Haddorff, have tried to show that Klund acted instinctively when he shot the two in self-defense using skills drilled into him in the military. But Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Thomas Ring tried to dismantle that logic in cross-examination Wednesday of Klund’s fellow marine, Henry Goff, by getting Goff to admit that they were trained to use force against specific threats in a context far different from downtown St. Paul.
During closing arguments Friday, Ring told jurors that Klund used excessive force and lied to police about the shooting, telling an investigator that Gruer tried to steal his laptop and took it into the bathroom. DNA evidence did not support the claim, Ring said, and the laptop was not found in the bathroom.
“How is it self-defense to shoot and kill a [52-year-old] woman with a bad ankle who is running away from you?” Ring asked jurors. “Since when is it self-defense when a man is trapped in your bathroom to shoot into the bathroom twenty-four times?”
Klund had run into Gruer and Rawls, who were homeless, at a gas station after bar close on May 7. The trio returned to Klund’s building in the 200 block of 5th Street E. near Mears Park. A resident of the building called 911 about shots fired about 3:38 a.m.
Recounting Gruer’s testimony, Ring said that the duo had asked Klund for a cigarette, and he said he had some at home.
Switzer said in her closing argument that Rawls and Gruer saw Klund, who was drunk, as an easy target, and followed him home in order to rob him. Switzer played surveillance video from the gas station showing Rawls engaging with another man who was smoking. When Klund exited the store, she and Gruer engaged with him even though he was not smoking, Switzer said.
Summarizing Klund’s testimony from Thursday, Switzer said that her client fired a warning shot when he saw Gruer holding a knife in one hand and Klund’s wallet in another. Klund fired because Gruer refused to leave and was threatening, she said.
“There is nothing in the law that says you have to defend yourself with a pistol and you can only shoot once,” Switzer said.
Ring argued that there was no warning shot, and that Klund “ambushed” Gruer when he exited Klund’s bathroom, and that he killed Rawls “for no good reason.” Ring provided no motive, while the defense has argued that Rawls and Gruer were high on methamphetamine, tried to rob him and that Rawls rifled through his bedroom.
Klund testified Thursday that in an interview with police, he said Gruer did not have a knife, and only recalled that detail a few days later. Friday, Switzer blasted authorities for not submitting a knife at the scene for DNA testing.
Ramsey County District Court Judge John Guthmann told jurors that they can find that Klund acted in self-defense if Gruer was committing a felony in Klund’s apartment, including robbery or burglary, among others. Jurors can also consider a lesser count — first-degree manslaughter in the heat of passion — instead of murder in Rawls’ death.