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Five-year-old killed in Central Hillside

A fourth person was arrested Thursday in connection with the investigation of the murder of 5-year-old Marcus Johnson. Three teenagers were initially arrested, and several other people possibly detained by police in the shooting death of the chil...

A fourth person was arrested Thursday in connection with the investigation of the murder of 5-year-old Marcus Johnson.

Three teenagers were initially arrested, and several other people possibly detained by police in the shooting death of the child who was caught up in a robbery.

At 4:29 a.m. Wednesday, police responded to a reported shooting at the St. Regis Apartments near downtown. Officers found the boy in an apartment. He had been shot in the head. The child was rushed to St. Mary's Medical Center and pronounced dead.

Early reports said the boy had been shot in the face when he opened the door of the upstairs apartment.

The victim was a kindergarten student at nearby Nettleton Magnet Elementary School.

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Officers at the scene reported that the suspects -- first thought to be five Native American males -- had fled, and broadcast a vehicle alert. At 4:59 a.m., an officer spotted the suspect vehicle traveling north on Interstate 35. Other squad cars responded, and police stopped the car at Mesaba Avenue and Third Street.

Police Chief Roger Waller said the suspects were taken into custody without incident. However, when the call went out, two of the responding police cars collided, sending two officers to the emergency room. Officers Tim Campbell and Jim Matson were treated and later released. Both cars were totaled.

"We believe the people we have in custody were involved in the murder," said Waller, who withheld identification of the suspects and the victim until Wednesday afternoon. However, the chief said early in the day that he believed they had the "shooter" in custody.

Later Wednesday, he identified the three Native American suspects as Gary Wayne Laquier, 18, Abigail Margaret Fleissner, 18, and a 15-year-old male. All three face charges of robbery and murder and were still waiting arraignment as of Thursday afternoon. All were previously known to police and had been living in Duluth.

The chief has refused to release any additional details about the robbery aspect of the crime. However, he did confirm, that using a search warrant, police have located a gun they believe is the murder weapon. They also found other individuals connected to the case. The gun was found at another Central Hillside location.

"We believe we have located all the remaining people we wanted to find," Waller said. "We are talking to them and are not sure if they will be charged."

Thursday afternoon, Waller announced that police had arrested Theresa Rosa Urrutia, 22, of Duluth, in connection with the case. She is being held on charges of aiding and abetting armed robbery.

Waller said the child's mother, Joan Lund, and an unidentified man -- not the boy's father -- were at the apartment at the time of the shooting. He would not confirm if other children living there were present.

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It was the second time Wednesday morning police had been to that apartment. About an hour before the shooting, officers were there on an apparently unrelated call and in the previous 24 hours had been in the neighborhood on several other calls.

Police believe only one shot was fired, but Waller would not speculate as to whether the child or someone else was the target. He said robbery was the motive.

"It's an area we've had problems with in the past," he said about the Central Hillside location. He said it was known for drugs, prostitution, gang activity and street-level crime.

Earlier Wednesday, with possible suspects still at large, police combed the Central Hillside neighborhood, and a mobile crime unit from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was parked outside the old four-floor, 18-unit apartment building.

The county medical examiner's office was to conduct an autopsy on the child later Wednesday or Thursday.

In an unrelated incident, a third Duluth police car was seriously damaged last week in a collision while investigating reported drag racing in Gary New Duluth.

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