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Carjack suspect crashed car, stole bike, grabbed SUV, died in shootout in Twin Cities

ST. PAUL — “He’s got a gun!” yelled someone who saw a man with a weapon after he’d crashed his car and got out in St. Paul.

Then, the man pointed the gun at a 72-year-old bicyclist, took his bike and fired shots in the neighborhood, according to police and Denise Moehrle, who lives in the North End area where the incident began Sunday afternoon.

The 20-year-old suspect — identified by police as Yee Vang — next carjacked a vehicle at gunpoint, took the occupants with him and got into a shootout with police. Police fatally shot Yee Vang.

A 14-year-old bystander, who may have been grazed by the gunfire, had a non-life-threatening injury. At least two officers suffered minor injuries and were treated and released Sunday.

The case was the fourth instance of officers being attacked in the area in the last week — “a reminder that this is dangerous work,” said St. Paul police spokesman Howie Padilla.

On Wednesday, Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick was fatally shot during a routine traffic stop in West St. Paul. The suspect fired on officers in St. Paul during the manhunt for him, police said, and he was shot, wounded and has been charged in Patrick’s murder.

And on Saturday night, a man tried to disarm a St. Paul police officer, according to charges filed against the suspect Monday.

Sunday’s case started with a car crash just after 4:30 p.m., Padilla said.

A driver was making a left turn, when Yee Vang “came around her on the left-hand side and clipped her front end,” said Moehrle, who

didn’t see the accident, but who said neighbors told her about it. “He was going so fast, he lost control of his car and slid sideways. He then skidded and crashed into” the fence at Oakland Cemetery.

“One of the neighbors said as he got out of the car, his gun fell out of his pocket and he had reached down and grabbed the gun,” Moehrle said. The “neighbor said he thought it was just a cellphone, but it turned out to be the gun.”

Moehrle, who said she’s a former firefighter and paramedic, heard the crash, went running toward it and called 911.

“It was kind of chaotic,” she said. “There were a lot of people around. He went up to a guy who was riding his pedal bike and pulled his gun out, and another neighbor yelled, ‘He’s got a gun!’ … He pointed the gun at the bike. The neighbors were telling him to just give him the bike. The suspect attempted to ride the bike, but kept falling off. I don’t know if he was on something or drunk or just shaken from the crash. He was kind of wobbling.”

Yee Vang pointed his gun at houses and fired two rounds, Moehrle said. She asked a neighbor to stop cars from driving through the area, but said the vehicle the suspect carjacked got by her neighbor.

“The suspect stopped the car in the middle of the road on Jackson,” Moehrle said. “It all happened in about 20 seconds. The kid pulled his gun again.”

Yee Vang, “by force, using his weapon,” got in the back of a sport-utility vehicle with two men inside and forced them to drive, Padilla said.

Police spotted the SUV, tried to pull it over, and the driver stopped in the area of West Minnehaha Avenue in the Frogtown neighborhood. “The suspect … leapt out of the car, out of the driver’s-side rear door, started firing immediately at officers,” Padilla said.

The 14-year-old who was injured was walking with his friend on Minnehaha. Police radio traffic indicated he had a gunshot wound to the stomach and was conscious and breathing, according to audio posted on MN Police Clips. Padilla didn’t confirm Monday that the boy had been shot.

Police continue to investigate the entire case, including looking into why Yee Vang crashed in the first place and whether he was under the influence, Padilla said. Yee Vang’s city of residence is unknown, police said.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.