Oakdale 4th-grader's killing 'completely random'
Posted in the Robbinsdale Forum
Saint Paul, MN
#1 Feb 12, 2013
It had been an ordinary Monday night, with Melissa Aryal picking up her 9-year-old son, Devin, from his day care in Oakdale. Devin was talkative, as usual.
"He was so proud because he did all his homework at day care," Aryal said. "He wanted to come home and play for the evening."
It was a road that Missy, as she's known, figures she's driven a million times before. She steered the van east on 7th Street and stopped, waiting for cars to go by, so that she could turn left onto Hadley Avenue.
They had no way of knowing that a stranger, allegedly a 34-year-old man armed with a semiautomatic pistol, was poised to randomly shoot at passing vehicles in his Oakdale neighborhood -- and that the bullets would kill Devin and slightly wound his 39-year-old mother and another driver.
Devin suffered "multiple gunshot wounds" and died Monday evening at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, police said in a statement.
Nhan L. Tran, whose home is a few blocks from the two shooting scenes near 7th Street N., began firing a handgun about 6:10 p.m. while standing along the road, police said.
"It was a completely random kind of incident," Police Chief Bill Sullivan, who did not offer a motive for the violence, said at a mid-afternoon news conference. "He was shooting at the vehicles randomly."
Sullivan said the suspect has no criminal record and added that police "are comfortable that Tran was not possessing [the gun] unlawfully."
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput, who expects to charge Tran on Wednesday, described the bloodshed as "everybody's nightmare. I can't go to Rainbow without taking a bullet?"
Witnesses gave varying accounts of how the shooter was behaving -- one saying he appeared calm and another describing him as paranoid. Cheryl Russell, who lives across the street from the suspect's home, said Tuesday that she looked out a window from her home and saw the man shooting at vehicles at two locations.
In an interview from her home, Aryal said she and Devin both heard a noise under the hood, and as she braked to turn onto Hadley Avenue, she felt her arm go numb. She swerved into the Rainbow parking lot a half-block away, called 911, got out and then saw Devin slumped in the back seat.
Tuesday morning, officials at Devin's school called and wept on the phone with his mother, Aryal said.
"The kids are having a hard time because he was just a lovable little boy," she said.
Witnesses describe the shooting
Russell described the shooter as "very nonchalant, just very calm."
At least two vehicles struck by bullets sped into the parking lot of the nearby Rainbow Foods at 7053 10th St. N. seeking help. Devin was a fourth-grader at Oakdale Elementary, a school of about 500 or so from pre-K to fifth grade and located about a mile from the violence.
Patty Phillips, superintendent for the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District, said in a statement: "We are deeply saddened that this horrific tragedy took the life of one of our Oakdale Elementary fourth-graders."
Phillips added that staff, counselors and others are "working together to assure our students that schools are safe places."
A vigil was scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, located behind Devin's school. Their pastor, John Stiles, has been at the school helping students as they mourn the loss of one of their own. While Devin's family does not attend the church, many fourth- and fifth-graders at the school do.
Tran was arrested almost immediately about a half-mile south of the shooting scenes and is jailed in Stillwater on suspicion of second-degree murder and first-degree assault with great bodily harm. A weapon and ammunition were recovered, police said.
"He submitted to authorities when arrested and didn't threaten police," Chief Sullivan said.
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