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Murder charges filed in fatal shooting of teen at Brooklyn Park strip mall

Varney Kennedy Jr., age 17, was killed when police say a man walked up to a vehicle he was sitting in parked outside the African Market and opened fire.

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. — Editor's note: This video originally aired on August 19, 2021

Police say an 18-year-old is in custody, charged with second-degree murder in connection with the fatal shooting of a teen last week at a strip mall in Brooklyn Park. 

Varney Kennedy Jr., age 17, was killed August 17 when police say a man walked up to a vehicle he was sitting in parked outside the African Market at 5700 Brookdale Drive, and opened fire. 

The accused gunman, 18-year-old Marcus Aaron Thornton was arrested in Minneapolis around 5:30 p.m. Monday by Brooklyn Park police officers and members of a violent crime task force. Police say he was armed with a handgun at the time of arrest. 

Hennepin County prosecutors filed murder charges against Thornton Tuesday. 


Credit: Varney Kennedy Sr.
Varney Kennedy Jr.

A criminal complaint filed in Hennepin County District Court said a witness on the shooting scene told investigators that the person who had just sold her a THC vape cartridge was the same man who shot Kennedy. She identified the shooter as Marcus Thornton. 

Officers canvassed the area and found a Sig Sauer 9mm handgun laying under a shrub near the African Market. Discarded shell casings recovered at the shooting scene appeared to match live rounds from the recovered Sig Sauer. 

Investigators also recovered surveillance video from a city camera which is trained on an area that includes the African Market. It shows a man identified as Thorton standing outside of the car Kennedy was sitting in, pulling something that looks like a gun from his waistband and pointing it towards a car window. Police say the window shatters, and the shooter runs towards an area apartment complex. 

The complaint says security video from the apartments shows Thornton running to a balcony apartment, throwing his sweatshirt and shoes onto the deck and then being let into the building by a woman who lives in that apartment, along with her boyfriend. 

When police later spoke with the man who lives in the apartment, they say he told them he walked to the African Market with Thorton the day of the shooting. The man, identified in court papers as TDS, said Thornton purchased marijuana and was selling THC cartridges in the parking lot when the shooting occurred. TDS said by the time he returned to his apartment the defendant was wearing some of his clothing, and soon left in an Uber for his cousin's house. 

Police say TDS identified Thornton from a six-person photo lineup. 

The criminal complaint does not detail exactly what happened between Kennedy and Thornton that led to the shooting. 

If convicted of second-degree murder Marcus Aaron Thornton faces a possible sentence of 40 years in prison. 

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