Police: Victim fatally shoots robber, 16

By Mara H. Gottfried St. Paul Pioneer Press ST. PAUL -- A beautiful night with a blue moon brought two adults to a St. Paul river bluff to enjoy the weather, but police said they were soon met with a random act of violence that ended with a 16-ye...

By Mara H. Gottfried

St. Paul Pioneer Press


ST. PAUL - A beautiful night with a blue moon brought two adults to a St. Paul river bluff to enjoy the weather, but police said they were soon met with a random act of violence that ended with a 16-year-old dead.

Four juvenile males approached the adults Friday night and one, wearing a mask and gloves, pulled a handgun and tried to rob the adults, police said. One of the victims has a permit to carry a handgun, pulled his own weapon and shot the suspect, they told police. The teenage suspect from West St. Paul died at the scene near a World War I monument at Summit Avenue and Mississippi River Boulevard.


Lavauntai Broadbent, who was to start 11th grade at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights in the fall, had already been on the radar of police.

Broadbent pleaded guilty to a gang-related gross misdemeanor charge in May, though he denied he was a gang member, saying he’d only hung out with them, according to a juvenile petition.

Broadbent’s family regarded him as sweet and funny, but said he had also become “messed up with the wrong crowd,” according to Shawn Distad, a family friend whom Broadbent called “Auntie.”

“He did silly stuff, but nothing to hurt anybody and that’s what’s really confusing about this, if it is true, that he did go to rob somebody,” Distad said Monday. “That’s not his character. He was a loving kid.”

During a memorial for Broadbent late Sunday at Shadow Falls Park, near where the teen had been killed, a vehicle drove by just before midnight and someone fired shots at people gathered. Police said no one was struck by the gunfire.

“The Summit/Mississippi Boulevard area is a safe area to be,” Sgt. Paul Paulos, a police spokesman, said Monday. “We have to stop the rumors, stop the speculation, stop the accusing and most importantly put your guns down,” referring to the Sunday shots-fired incident.




The Friday attempted robbery and shooting occurred about 10:30 p.m. An adult had gone to the area to enjoy the weather, Paulos said. Another adult was sitting on the edge of the Mississippi River bluff and apparently there for the same purpose. They didn’t know each other, but started talking.

The suspects approached the two, and that’s when the attempted robbery and shooting occurred, Paulos said. The shooter “rendered first aid … tried to give immediate help,” the police spokesman said. “Called the police as he’s supposed to.” Paramedics declared Broadbent dead.

Broadbent and the man who shot him didn’t know each other, Paulos said, calling the attempted robbery “a random act of violence.”

Distad said she doesn’t know the specifics of what happened and understands if the man was shooting in self-defense. But she’s concerned Broadbent was shot more than once, which she said she could hear when Broadbent’s mother spoke with the Ramsey County medical examiner’s office Saturday.

Police didn’t release information Monday about how many times Broadbent was shot, saying they will await the final report from the medical examiner’s office.

Investigators determined Broadbent and three juvenile males were involved in the robbery attempt, Paulos said. Police arrested three during the weekend - two are from St. Paul and the third is from an eastern suburb, police said.

The Ramsey County attorney’s office is reviewing the case to consider charges against the juveniles, said Dennis Gerhardstein, an office spokesman.

The two adults who were the victims of the attempted robbery, whom police haven’t named, were taken to police headquarters and questioned. They “are fully cooperating with the police,” Paulos said. Police haven’t yet presented a case to the county attorney’s office to determine whether the shooter should be charged, Gerhardstein said Monday.


Minnesota law says people can use deadly force for self-defense under four conditions, said Andrew Rothman, president of the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, a Minnesota-based nonprofit. The shooter can only do so: to prevent great bodily harm or death to himself or another person; when he is the non-aggressor; if no lesser force would end the threat; and, in public settings, if it’s possible to retreat safely, he said.

Police said Monday that people can expect to see a little more of a police presence in the area where the shooting occurred, but stressed that it is safe. Police also said they’re looking for anyone who’s recently been a victim of a robbery or attempted robbery by assailants wearing masks and gloves.


Suspect’s past

Broadbent, whose nickname was Man Man, mostly grew up on St. Paul’s East Side and had been living in West St. Paul with his family for the last few years, said Distad, who’s been friends with Broadbent’s mother for 35 years. He loved to crack jokes and play basketball, Distad said.

When some of Broadbent’s friends started turning toward gangs, Distad said she thinks he didn’t want to lose the friends he’d grown up with.

In May, Broadbent pleaded guilty to third-degree riot/crime committed for the benefit of a gang, according to the Ramsey County attorney’s office. He was sentenced in Dakota County; information about the outcome wasn’t immediately available Monday.

Officers had been called to the Embassy Suites in downtown St. Paul in April and saw 50 to 100 juveniles running away from the hotel, according to the juvenile petition in the case Broadbent pleaded guilty to. Police reviewed surveillance videos and saw juveniles punching and throwing items at each other. They recognized numerous members of rival gangs, the petition said.


Broadbent was seen kicking someone on the ground and chasing another person off camera, the petition said.

Although he denied gang involvement, Broadbent “has been in numerous social media postings flashing … gang signs,” said the petition filed in May. Broadbent comes up in various St. Paul police reports, including ones that describe him with groups of gang members.

He and three men were arrested in March on suspicion of possessing a firearm with an altered serial number after St. Paul police were called to Congress Street, near Ohio Street, on a report of several males in possession of guns. The outcome of that case wasn’t available Monday.

This summer, Broadbent had gone to visit his father in Chicago. One reason was because his mother “didn’t want him hanging out with some of the people that she heard he was hanging out with,” Distad said. “… She really tried.”

Lewis Dixon, president and CEO of a St. Paul nonprofit called Teens Networking Together, said also he’d tried to help Broadbent when he saw him hanging out on the West Side of St. Paul.

Dixon saw Broadbent as a goofy, smiley kid with “a little baby face,” who other kids gravitated toward. Dixon said he tried to steer Broadbent and the leadership skills he recognized in him to other opportunities, telling him, “Instead of trying to be in a gang, you can be in a productive youth group that will help your future.”

“I told him the streets out here are not for young kids like him,” Dixon said. “He pretty much said, ‘There’s really no other way to go.’ ”



Jaime DeLage contributed to this report. The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.

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