ST PAUL, Minn. — A St. Paul man is being remembered as a good neighbor and a good friend after he was fatally shot attempting to help in the wake of a car crash Monday night.
Police identified the victim as 31-year-old Javier S. Yanez of St. Paul.
Police arrested 27-year-old Lionel Keejuan Eaton in relation to the shooting. Eaton was charged Tuesday with one count of second-degree murder and one count of third-degree murder.
Eaton's mother told police that her son had been acting erratic and paranoid. She told officials that she believed he was having a mental health crisis. Eaton told police he was "rammed" by another vehicle and thought he heard gunshots. He also told officials he feared for his life.
Eaton is set to make his first court appearance in the Ramsey County District Court on Wednesday morning.
Neighbors say Javier Yanez was among five residents who came out of their homes at the intersection of Edgerton Street North and Case Avenue East at around 10 p.m. after a man rear-ended a woman and her vehicle, sending each of them careening into parked cars.
Neighbor Maya Thompson, who talked to KARE 11's Gordon Severson Tuesday morning, says she, her husband, Yanez and two others went to the woman's car first to check on her. She exited the vehicle and told them she was OK. At that point the group went to the suspect's SUV and found him in back. They were worried he was hurt, and when Yanez went to open the hatch the man inside reportedly opened fire. Yanez was shot in the head and died immediately.
“We were just telling the guy to come out," Thompson said. "We just wanted to make sure he was OK. One of them went down to pull the lever on the back latch of the door and the shots went through the window and killed Javier.”
Police arrested the suspect on the scene, and say they believe he is the man who fired the fatal shot.
Thompson says Yanez was married, with four kids under the age of 7. She says he was fixing up his own house and hoped for a career in real estate fixing up homes and selling them. She calls Yanez "a good friend, a good neighbor, a good man."
Neighbors set up a GoFundMe to help cover funeral costs.
This homicide is the 18th of the year and the second homicide of the day, police said.
The first shooting took place earlier Monday near the intersection of Rice Street and Winnipeg Avenue West at 4:30 p.m., according to police. An 18-year-old was found with apparent gunshot wounds and died at the scene, officials said.
Here is our coverage of the first homicide: