Police say suspect confessed to shooting at vehicles
A suspect has been charged with second-degree intentional murder in the death of 9-year-old Devin Joseph Aryal, who was shot and killed in what police described as a random shooting in Oakdale at dusk Feb. 11.
Police responded to the intersection of Seventh Street and Hadley Avenue at approximately 6:10 p.m. Monday when gunshots were reported in the area.
According to the criminal complaint, a suspect identified as 34-year-old Nhan Lap Tran of Oakdale stood in the middle of the intersection and opened fire on passing motorists. Multiple rounds were reportedly fired at four vehicles, including a minivan that Aryal was riding in with his 39-year-old mother.
Tran, who is being held at the Washington County Jail, has been charged with second-degree intentional murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. He has also been charged with attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon.
Oakdale officers said they were summoned to the Rainbow Foods parking lot and found a woman, later identified as Aryal's mother, standing at the driver's side sliding rear door of a minivan holding her son, who was slumped over the back seat.
Witnesses reported seeing a minivan with a shattered rear windshield parked outside the Rainbow Foods located at 7053 10th St. N. Monday evening.
According to the complaint, Aryal's mother said she had just picked up her son from daycare and was traveling east on Seventh Street near Hadley Avenue when a man on foot started shooting at her vehicle. When she realized she had been shot, she drove to the nearby Rainbow Foods and then saw her son had been shot as well, the complaint states.
Aryal had been shot in the head and was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, according to the complaint. His mother was shot in the arm, and a 68-year-old woman traveling in a separate vehicle had been shot in the hand and leg. That victim lost part of her finger as a result of the gunshot wound to her hand, the complaint states.
The 68-year-old's three grandchildren were passengers in the car when she was shot. They told authorities that a man had fired at their vehicle near the intersection of Seventh Street and Hadley Avenue.
At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Oakdale Police Chief Bill Sullivan said both the 68-year-old victim and Aryal's mother, who was treated for her injuries and released, were expected to recover.
Two other drivers were also shot at in their vehicles but were not hit.
According to the complaint, officers located a man wearing a green jacket, black jeans and a gray backpack in the south end of a business parking lot on the 400 block of Hale Avenue North about 20 minutes after the initial shots fired call. Officers apprehended the suspect, later identified as Tran, and located a 9-millimeter handgun a few feet away from him. The gun was loaded and had a bullet in the chamber, according to the complaint.
Tran was also wearing a black fanny pack around his waist, which contained numerous 9-millimeter bullets, the complaint stated. The backpack he had been carrying also contained multiple bullets as well as two large knives in protective sheaths. Police said two loaded 9-millimeter magazines were also found in Tran's jacket pocket.
According to the complaint, Tran agreed to speak to law enforcement after he was arrested. When interviewed, he reportedly admitted to shooting at two vehicles -- a small car with one occupant and one that he said was likely a minivan. Tran reportedly conceded that he could have shot at other vehicles if they were traveling behind the two he described.
Police said Tran admitted to reloading at least once in order to continue shooting and said he tossed the gun and placed his hands in the air when he saw officers enter the parking lot where he was apprehended.
At Tuesday's press conference, Sullivan said Tran did not resist arrest or point a gun at police when he was apprehended.
"He submitted to authorities when arrested," Sullivan said.
Minnesota court records do not show a criminal record for Tran, and Sullivan said police are confident that Tran legally owned the handgun found near him when he was apprehended.
Also at Tuesday's press conference, Sullivan confirmed Tran lived with his parents on the 600 block of Guthrie Avenue in Oakdale. Police believe he has lived there for "several years," Sullivan said, adding that his department has not had contact or trouble with Tran in the past.
Sullivan said police do not know if Tran was employed, only that he has been employed in the past. There have not been indications of mental health issues, Sullivan added.
Sullivan said it appeared that the shooter was targeting vehicles, but that earlier Tuesday officers were investigating a claim that a home in the vicinity of the shootings had been struck by gunfire. Along the stretch of Hadley where the shots were fired, houses line the west side of the street and office complexes dot the east side.
Tran made his initial court appearance Wednesday morning before Washington County District Court Judge Ellen Maas, who set his bail at $2 million and ordered a competency and mental health examination requested by Tran's public defender.
Police have said that interviews conducted with Tran suggest there is no reason to believe that there are additional suspects or that he had any type of connection to the victims prior to the shooting.
When asked about a potential motive for the shooting at Tuesday's press conference, Sullivan said as of now police are not disclosing other information from their conversations with the suspect.
In a press release, County Attorney Pete Orput described the incident as a "senseless tragedy."
"We can not comprehend a situation where a parent loses their child in any manner, much less in this way," Orput said in the press release. "Our hearts go out to Devin's family and to the families of all the victims in this case.
"My office will do all it can to bring justice to all of them, at the same time knowing that it is not enough. However, they deserve no less."
Alex Holmquist can be reached at email@example.com  or 651-748-7822. Johanna Holub contributed to this report.