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Duluth man charged with firing shots in brawl outside downtown bar

A street brawl at bar-closing time turned into an "unbelievably chaotic scene" early Saturday in downtown Duluth when a suspect fired several rounds from a handgun at another man, witnesses said.

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Minnesota state troopers confer at the scene of a shots-fired call in downtown Duluth early Saturday morning. (Andrew Krueger / akrueger@duluthnews.com)

A street brawl at bar-closing time turned into an “unbelievably chaotic scene” early Saturday in downtown Duluth when a suspect fired several rounds from a handgun at another man, witnesses said.

Bystanders scattered in the commotion at the intersection of First Avenue West and First Street, but no injuries were reported, according to charges filed Thursday.

Suspect Levi Jermar Miller, 19, of Duluth, allegedly admitted to officers that he fired the rounds. But he asserted that he did so in self-defense after another man opened fire on him - claims that police said could not be substantiated.

Miller was charged Thursday with second-degree assault, endangering safety by intentional discharge of a firearm and possessing a pistol without a permit.

According to the criminal complaint:

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Officers were called to the fight at 2:09 a.m. Saturday and received numerous witness descriptions of a suspect.

One woman reported that she was driving down First Street when she encountered the brawl, which had spilled into the street. She was stopped at a red light at First Avenue West when she heard two “pops” coming from behind her.

The witness said she turned around and noticed a gunman with his arm extended. She said he fired several more shots and started running north, “continuing to hold the firearm out in front of him and shooting several more shots.”

The woman and multiple additional witnesses described the shooter as a black male wearing a red shirt and a red baseball cap.

A man matching the description, later identified as Miller, was located a short time later at Lake Avenue and Second Street. Officers found a Smith & Wesson 9 mm handgun in his waistband.

Miller was arrested and taken to the St. Louis County Jail, where he gave a statement to police.

Miller told investigators that he had just left the Flame Nightclub, where he had consumed four or five shots in the hour before closing time, when he encountered a man in a white Dodge Caravan. The man, who was known to him, opened fire, he said.

Miller acknowledged that he then began chasing the other man and fired three or four shots at him. He stated that he knew it was “wrong,” but maintained that he was acting in self-defense.

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The alleged victim was located in the area, but police said there was no evidence that he had fired on Miller. Duluth police officers and Minnesota State Patrol troopers canvassed the area with flashlights, closing off several blocks.

Several spent cartridges and bullet holes were found in the area, but they were consistent with the shots reportedly fired by Miller, police said. Additional witnesses told police that Miller was the lone shooter and there was no white Caravan in the area.

Miller was arraigned Thursday in State District Court in Duluth. Judge David Johnson set his bail at $50,000 and referred him for possible pretrial supervised release.

Miller, who has no apparent criminal history, told the judge that he holds a full-time job, making $9 an hour. Johnson granted a request for a public defender.

His next court appearance is set for Sept. 30.

Related Topics: CRIME
Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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