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'Breached our sense of safety': Mayor Carter outlines actions to address shooting at St. Paul recreation center

In response to the shooting, Carter says he's working to ban firearms in St. Paul libraries and recreation centers, among other initiatives to curb youth violence.

ST PAUL, Minn. — St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter announced on Monday that he plans to work with the legislature to ban firearms in recreation centers and libraries after a teen was shot and critically injured last week.

"The tragic shooting that unfolded outside of Oxford Community Center last week breached our sense of safety in that sacred space, in one of the worst ways imaginable," Carter said.

The day after the shooting of a 16-year-old, identified in the criminal complaint as "JT", on Jan. 18, Carter told reporters that the suspect in the shooting outside the Oxford Community Center and Jimmy Lee Recreation Center was an employee of the city of Saint Paul.

The suspect, identified as Exavir Dwayne Binford, Jr., is charged with second-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault. According to the complaint, prosecutors allege Binford argued with two teens, eventually getting into a physical fight before allegedly pulling a gun and shooting one of the boys in the head.  

"A young man was injured by gunfire, not only at the recreation center, but allegedly by one of the adults who was employed to care for him," Carter said. "This, by far, is the most gut-wrenching news I've ever had to deliver to this community."

In response to the shooting, Carter said the city is working with the Met Council and St. Paul Public Schools to improve after-school processes. The effort seeks to address what Carter says is "hundreds of unsupervised students" that "often flock into public spaces," giving conflict the opportunity to "brew" among them. 

"These concerns demand our full attention," Carter said. 

Carter said he plans to work with the St. Paul delegation in the legislature and Ramsey County officials to advance a bill "authorizing cities to ban guns at our libraries and recreation centers," which state law currently prohibits. Carter said the request was included in the city's legislative agenda even before last week's shooting occurred.  

Ramsey County Board Chair Trista MatasCastillo confirmed the county has joined St. Paul in this effort. She told KARE 11 at least one House sponsor is drafting a bill that would allow municipalities like Ramsey County and St. Paul to ban guns on public properties.

Representative Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul) addressed the proposal in an interview outside of House chambers on Monday.

"I'll have to look at the exact details, but I want to make sure cities have what they need," Pinto said. "The ability to say, guns shouldn't be allowed in places where there are kids, boy, that makes a lot of sense to me."

Although the DFL controls both chambers of the legislature, such a change to state law could still face resistance.

"If it were to come as a bill to the legislature, first and foremost, I have to read every bill. But as a rule, I would be opposed to that," Republican Representative Jim Nash said. "The Supreme Court of the United States of America has ruled three times that the Second Amendment is an individual right, and state law supports that, that a person has an ability to carry at a place that is not prohibited."

After unveiling various public safety proposals on Monday, Gov. Walz told reporters that "there's just no darn reason that we should have handguns in recreation centers." However, he did not specifically address the proposal brought forth by Mayor Carter. A spokesperson did not respond to requests for clarification as to whether the governor supports allowing cities to ban guns on public properties.

"Whatever happens at the session, we will either change that law at the Capitol or in the courts. There is no reason for anyone other than a police officer to be allowed to have a gun at a rec center," Carter said.

Mayor Carter said he's also already ordered a "comprehensive audit of policies, practices, and resources pertaining to public safety, staff training in discipline and systems of support" in the city's recreation centers, and says a third party will conduct the assessment.

Binford, according to Carter, has officially been terminated in his role at the recreation center, saying new information coming to light about his past work conduct "makes it clear termination is only the beginning."

Carter said he learned for the first time on Friday of an incident in 2019 where Binford received a five-day suspension for a physical altercation with an 18-year-old patron at the recreation center. Video footage of the incident is currently being reviewed.

Carter said the recreation center will remain closed as the community focuses on "healing and recovery," and the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department will provide a specific timeline for its reopening at a later date.

Mental health professionals will be on hand at the Black Youth Healing Arts Center on Wednesday for a closed session with the victim's close friends and those who witnessed the shooting. 

Binford remains in custody in Ramsey County on $500,000 bail. His next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 15 at 1:30 p.m.    

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