A Le Sueur, Minn., man was charged in the Thanksgiving Day shooting of a St. Paul gas station employee after his DNA was found on sunglasses left at the scene, according to charges.
Donald J. Bell, 36, was charged Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court with one count each of first-degree assault and second-degree assault, and two counts of ineligible possession of a firearm.
Authorities believe he was trying to rob the SuperAmerica gas station in the 700 block of Snelling Av. N. when he shot Jason Gatrell in the neck. Gatrell survived, but underwent surgery and was dependent on a feeding tube for almost a month.
The shooting occurred about 4:38 p.m. while Gatrell and his younger brother, Jordan Gatrell, were working.
According to the criminal complaint: Jordan Gatrell told police that he went outside to get something and was followed into the gas station by Bell. The suspect put a gun against Jordan Gatrell’s back and ordered him into the cash register area to get money.
Jason Gatrell was in a backroom washing dishes. Bell saw him and ordered him to the ground. Jordan Gatrell was getting money from the register when Jason Gatrell grabbed for the gun. A struggle ensued, and the gun fired three to four times.
“I’m gonna shoot you, cuz,” Bell allegedly said during the struggle.
Jason Gatrell said last month that he intervened to protect his brother, and fell to the ground after being shot.
“I thought I was going to die, honestly,” Jason Gatrell said.
Jordan Gatrell punched Bell in the face and jumped across the counter to call police, according to the charges. Bell fled on foot.
Police recovered surveillance video at the scene and sunglasses that fell off the suspect’s face. DNA tests on the glasses matched Bell’s DNA profile in the Minnesota Convicted Offender DNA Database, the charges said.
Surveillance video captured the attack. The suspect’s clothing matched clothing later found at Bell’s home on Jan. 2. Bell’s father and his father’s girlfriend also allegedly identified Bell as the man captured in a video still, according to the complaint.
The investigation also showed that a person matching the shooter’s description had visited a Holiday Gas station about six blocks south of the SuperAmerica about 4:11 p.m. that day.
Bell allegedly told police that he was in Le Sueur for Thanksgiving, but “could not recall any specifics,” the charges said. He previously pleaded guilty in Hennepin County District Court to robbing a man outside of a convenience store.